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2018 AOTY/DOTY Entry

Topic: Is It Safe to Eat Crab on Christmas Eve?  (Read 264 times)

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  • Manatee
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  • Location: Fremont, CA
  • Date Registered: Feb 2007
  • Posts: 19171
December 21 2017

Question: My family has for many years eaten fresh Dungeness Crab on Christmas Eve.  We havenít for a few years but would like to resume for this upcoming Christmas Eve. We have some doubts about eating it and were wondering if you could supply some information that would help the doubters feel comfortable eating crab again this year. (The Healy Family)

Answer: The short answer is: Ask where your crabs came from. If they came from south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line, or what fishermen will call District 10, you should be fine to eat your Christmas Eve Dungeness crab. Anywhere north of that point is currently closed to commercial harvest so they should not be available commercially from that area.

Crabs are tested regularly for domoic acid. This year, Dungeness crab caught south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line have tested clean (meaning they do not have elevated levels of domoic acid and should be safe). Because they are clean, the commercial season is open there and crabs that youíre likely seeing in the market are from south of that point. North of the county line, there have been some ports with higher levels of domoic acid. However, the commercial season is not closed there currently due to domoic acid. The season north of that line is closed so far because the crab quality is not sufficient for the season to start. The meat yield is not enough on the crabs.

The season for recreational crabbers is open statewide (you canít buy these, but you could go get them yourself if youíre a fisherman and have a fishing license).

Recreational crabbers may take crabs from public piers and other man-made structures per Fish and Game Code, section 1.88, without a sport license. Crabbers under the age of 16 are also not required to have a license.

However, the California Department of Public Health has issued a warning for recreational crabbers to remove the crab guts before cooking them because of those few ports that have shown crabs with high levels of domoic acid. You can read the CDPH advisory at  www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OPA/Pages/NR17-079.aspx.