Home Front Page Domoic acid makes Dungeness crab unfit for consumption

Domoic acid makes Dungeness crab unfit for consumption

It was not until 1991 when domoic acid was discovered

Risky levels of domoic acid, a naturally occurring poison, has been detected in waters between the Oregon border and the southern Santa Barbara County line. This has led to The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Tuesday warning people against eating Dungeness and Rock crabs.

In a statement, the CDPH has said that it has detected high levels of the toxin, which can be dangerous for consumption. California coastline specifically has shown toxic levels of domoic acid in waters between the Oregon border and the southern Santa Barbara County line.

Dungeness crab fishing season has started and following the warning, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, has stated that the season should be put off following the concerns regarding fatal biotoxin.

Jordan Traverso, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said, “The presence of this toxin is a serious concern as it is a public health issue and that’s got to be our priority right now. We don’t want anybody eating crab with domoic acid in it as it can potentially kill someone.”

Domoic acid’s poisoning can happen within 30 minutes to 24 hours after eating toxic seafood. Symptoms may include diarrhea, dizziness, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and headache. These symptoms take several days to dissipate.

The toxin is also related to some severe cases, when the victim may experience difficult breathing, disorientation, confusion, cardiovascular instability, seizures, excessive bronchial secretions, permanent loss of short-term memory, coma and even death.

In order to monitor domoic acid levels, CDPH, in conjunction with other state agencies, will carry on sampling efforts until the levels normalize or come under the permitted limit of 30 ppm in the viscera and 20 ppm in the meat.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife can end commercial Dungeness crab fishering and the responsibility for delaying recreational season lies with the state Fish and Game Commission. The commission could vote on the matter as early as Thursday.

“Bloom” of a particular single-celled plant called Pseudo-nitzschia is related to domoic acid. Prediction regarding the growth of this bloom is not possible and the levels found in crab will subside or not cannot be ascertained. The health advisory will be lifted once the levels are under acceptable levels.

It was not until 1991 when domoic acid was discovered in California and it was believed that the acid affected only oysters, scallops, clams, mussels but it is seen that the toxin also affects crabs. Domoic acid is produced by certain one-celled plants called diatoms and this is not the first time when a health authority has urged people not to consume seafood due to domoic acid.