Recreational crabbing closes again in Grays Harbor, except for the Westport Boat Basin

Just hours after the Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the reopening of recreational crabbing inside Grays Harbor late Wednesday, marine toxin levels forced another closure inside the harbor, except for the Westport Boat Basin, late Friday.

“Marine toxins are not cutting us any slack, and despite our efforts to find windows in which we can open these popular fisheries, we are still plagued by recurring tests indicating marine toxin levels are too high,” said Dan Ayres, Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager.

Based on recent marine toxin tests, the state Department of Health determined that Dungeness crab are unsafe for human consumption in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point) and Marine Area 2 (south of Point Chehalis) and Marine Area 2-2 (Grays Harbor) — except for the Westport Boat Basin.

The Westport Boat Basin, defined as the waters inside the breakwater between markers 10 and 11 and markers 1 and 2, which indicate the two entrances to the basin, is the sole open recreational crabbing area open.

“Recent testing for domoic acid indicates the issue is with crab found outside of the boat basin,” said Ayres. “Still, to avoid any exposure to possible toxins, we ask that any crab caught in the basin be cleaned thoroughly with viscera removed before consumption – as currently recommended by the Department of Health.”

Domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae, can be harmful and even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities. Cooking or freezing does not destroy domoic acid in shellfish.

Shellfish managers, working with the state Department of Health, briefly opened Grays Harbor recreational crab fishing from Wednesday until late Friday afternoon.

Crab fishing in areas north of Point Chehalis remain open, and viscera should also be removed from crab in these areas per current Department of Health guidelines.

Levels of domoic acid have increased in coastal waters over recent months. Earlier, the department closed all Washington coastal beaches to razor clam digging due to high levels of the toxin.

It is now unlawful to set, maintain, operate or possess baited or unbaited shellfish pots, ring nets or any other method of catching crab in the closed areas.