Since 2014, the northeast Pacific Ocean has experienced several dramatic marine heatwaves. The higher temperatures have caused blooms of toxic algae that, by producing the neurotoxin domoic acid, can make Dungeness crab and other shellfishunsafe to eat. In the fall of 2015, state officials in California and Oregon delayed the opening of crab season by several months, until testing finally showed domoic acid levels had dipped back to safe levels. Several similar closures have occurred since, including this year.
Noah Oppenheim, the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, says the 2015-2016 crab fishing closure resulted in direct financial losses that caused some boats in the fleet of about 1,000 to leave the fishery. Subsequent closures, also caused by domoic acid concerns, have further strained the industry, which in California and Oregon is worth about $445 million, Oppenheim says.