People should not eat Dungeness and rock crabs caught in waters between the Oregon border and southern Santa Barbara, the California Department of Public Health said Tuesday.
Shellfish caught along the California coastline have tested high for dangerous levels of domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin, the health officials said. The toxin levels have exceeded the state’s action level for the crabs’ body meat as well as the viscera, commonly referred to as crab butter, and therefore pose a significant risk to the public if they are consumed.
Domoic acid accumulation in seafood is a natural occurrence that is related to a “bloom” of a particular single-celled plant called pseudo-nitzschia. The conditions that support the growth of this plant are impossible to predict, and it is unknown when the levels found in crab will subside, health officials said. The health advisory will be lifted once the levels are no longer above acceptable levels.
Symptoms of domoic acid poisoning can occur within 30 minutes to 24 hours after eating toxic seafood. In mild cases, symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache and dizziness. These symptoms disappear within several days. In severe cases, the victim may experience trouble breathing, confusion, disorientation, cardiovascular instability, seizures, excessive bronchial secretions, permanent loss of short-term memory (a condition known as amnesic shellfish poisoning), coma or death.
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There have been no reported illnesses associated with this event, the state health officials said.
More information is available at the health department’s toll-free shellfish information line at (800) 553-4133 or visit the department’s Natural Marine Toxins: PSP and Domoic Acid Web page.