Effective immediately, the recreational Dungeness crab fisheries on the Washington coast south of the Queets River will close due to elevated marine toxin levels, state shellfish managers announced today.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife expanded closures on crab fishing Wednesday to include coastal waters stretching from the Queets River to the Columbia River. This closure area includes Grays Harbor and the popular Westport Boat Basin. The commercial Dungeness crab fishery is also closed and will be delayed until further notice in Washington coastal waters, Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay, and the Columbia River.
WDFW announced the closure after testing showed domoic acid levels in crab exceeded standards for safe consumption established by the Washington State 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.
The area north of Queets River remains open to recreational crab fishing, as does recreational crab fishing in the Columbia River and in Willapa Bay as of today. Additional crab samples are being collected this week from Willapa Bay and the Columbia River with domoic acid results expected Friday. The agency is continuing to test crabs in coming weeks and will make decisions based on the latest available information.
Levels of domoic acid have been increasing in coastal waters over recent months, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. Earlier this season, the department closed all Washington coastal beaches to razor clam digging due to high levels of the toxin.
“Domoic acid just is not cutting us any breaks in recent weeks and months,” Ayres said. “Closing crabbing areas is not what we want to do right now, but safety has to be our first concern and amnesic shellfish poisoning is not something we or our colleagues at the Department of Health can take lightly.”
Fishing reports for waters in southwest Washington, including the Columbia River and tributaries as reported to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on Dec. 8.
Always check the WDFW website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing for the latest fishing rules and regulations as seasons can change or close quickly if necessary.
Columbia River tributaries
Cowlitz River – Interstate-5 Bridge downstream — 34 bank rods kept one coho and released one coho; two boats/four rods had no catch.
Above the I-5 Bridge — 47 bank rods kept four coho, one coho jack, two cutthroat and released nine coho and five cutthroat; one boat/one rod kept one coho jack.
Washougal River — Seven bank anglers had no catch.