Boats sit idle as al­gae threat­ens Dun­geness crab sea­son

‘We’re look­ing for­ward to hav­ing Dun­geness crab for Christ­mas Eve’

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

SAN FRANCISCO: San Francisco’s Fish­er­man’s Wharf typ­i­cally bus­tles this time of year as work­ers pre­pare to haul mil­lions of pounds of Dun­geness crab that are a tra­di­tion at Thanks­giv­ing and other hol­i­day meals. But crab pots are sit­ting empty on docks, boats are idled and fish­er­men are anx­iously wait­ing for Cal­i­for­nia au­thor­i­ties to open the lu­cra­tive Dun­geness crab sea­son. Cal­i­for­nia has de­layed the Nov 15 start of its com­mer­cial crab sea­son af­ter find­ing dan­ger­ous lev­els of a toxin in crabs. Of­fi­cials in Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton are test­ing crab sam­ples and will de­cide soon whether to open its coastal sea­son by Dec 1 as planned. A mas­sive bloom of mi­cro­scopic al­gae - which pro­duced a nat­u­ral toxin called do­moic acid that is harm­ful to wildlife and fish - in the Pa­cific Ocean is threat­en­ing the crab in­dus­try dur­ing a time when many fish­ing out­fits make their most money. It’s also roil­ing coastal tourism and marine ecosys­tems.

A clo­sure along the en­tire West Coast would be a blow to the in­dus­try, which har­vested nearly $170 mil­lion worth of Dun­geness crab in 2014. “Ev­ery­body is count­ing on crab to make it, so this is pretty dis­ap­point­ing,” said Larry Collins, pres­i­dent of the San Francisco Crab Boat Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. “When­ever they test clean, we’ll go get them. I’m very hope­ful that it’s sooner than later.”

Ex­perts say the warm con­di­tions that set up the toxic al­gae bloom - while not at­trib­uted to cli­mate change - does of­fer a pic­ture of what’s to come as ocean tem­per­a­tures are pro­jected to warm. Al­ready, warmer ocean tem­per­a­tures off New Eng­land have shaken up fish­eries there, con­tribut­ing to the col­lapse of the re­gion’s cod fish­ery and the shift north­ward in the lob­ster pop­u­la­tion, stud­ies have found. “I don’t have a crys­tal ball, but I think we’re be­ing given a warn­ing here,” said Vera Trainer, who man­ages the marine biotoxin pro­gram at the North­west Fish­eries Science Cen­ter in Seat­tle. “We’re be­ing shown what the fu­ture is go­ing to look like. This is more of what we can ex­pect.”

Coastal com­mu­ni­ties

Ra­zor clams, for now, have been taken off menus in Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton. Shell­fish man­agers have closed recre­ational digs af­ter find­ing dan­ger­ous lev­els of do­moic acid in the bi­valves. Those clo­sures have cost an es­ti­mated $22 mil­lion in tourism-re­lated spend­ing, said Dan Ayres, coastal shell­fish man­ager for the Wash­ing­ton Depart­ment of Fish and Wildlife. Crab­bing was also closed along parts of the Wash­ing­ton coast over the sum­mer, though crab­bing con­tin­ued in the Puget Sound. Matt Hunter, shell­fish project leader with the Ore­gon Depart­ment of Fish and Wildlife, said crab­bing is huge fish­ery in the state and any clo­sure will have “trickle-down ef­fect on the econ­omy, not only on the coastal com­mu­ni­ties.”

Crab can still be found in many restau­rants and stores, in­clud­ing San Francisco’s Fish­er­man’s Wharf, and health of­fi­cials say crabs sold in stores are safe to eat. Some crab on the mar­ket now may have been har­vested months ago and frozen for later; com­mer­cial crab fish­ing is cur­rently open in some parts of Alaska, Ore­gon and Puget Sound. In Cal­i­for­nia, crab fish­er­man are bracing for a tough sea­son. “Need­less to say, this is dev­as­tat­ing,” said Steve Fitz, who owns Mr Mor­gan Fish­eries in Half Moon Bay. Crab rep­re­sents the bulk of an­nual in­come for many in the fish­ing com­mu­nity, he said. Still, he’s op­ti­mistic that toxin lev­els will go down and the sea­son will open soon.

Hol­i­day tra­di­tion

Restau­rants and cus­tomers say they’ll ad­just their habits. “It’s a dis­ap­point­ment be­cause we really look for­ward to it ev­ery Novem­ber,” said Matt Watson, man­ager of Wood­house Fish Co in San Francisco, which will do its best to get whole crab at a rea­son­able price from other states. Kris Ducker, who grew up in Cal­i­for­nia, looks for­ward to her fam­ily’s hol­i­day tra­di­tion: eat­ing crab served ice cold, cracked, with a side of sour­dough bread. Even though she now lives in Texas, she still tries to find fresh Dun­geness crab.

“We’re look­ing for­ward to hav­ing Dun­geness crab for Christ­mas Eve. We could move on to some­thing else. It wouldn’t kill us, but we would be sad,” she said. Sci­en­tists say the warm wa­ters that fos­tered the mas­sive toxic al­gae bloom off the West Coast this year is more likely a short-term cli­mate event than one at­trib­uted to cli­mate change. “Whether this warm­ing it­self is a direct func­tion of cli­mate change or not, we can’t say,” said Mark Wells, an oceanog­ra­phy pro­fes­sor in the School of Marine Sci­ences at the Univer­sity of Maine. How­ever, the cli­mate change mod­els project warm­ing along the coast­lines over the next sev­eral decades, so “this type of event prob­a­bly is go­ing to be­come much more fre­quent in the fu­ture.”

On the North­east coast, sci­en­tists have doc­u­mented shifts in species as the re­sult of warmer wa­ters and that’s meant some changes in what is caught and where. “We see lots of shift­ing go­ing on,” said Richard Mer­rick, NOAA Fish­eries chief science ad­viser. Sig­nif­i­cant fish stocks have been shift­ing north­ward and deeper into cooler wa­ters along the North­west At­lantic Ocean, he noted. The New Eng­land cod fish­ery col­lapsed but had­dock fish­ing has gone up as fish­er­men switched, he said. An­other study found that warm­ing seas will likely send West Coast fish species north­ward by about 20 miles a decade, and some species prob­a­bly will dis­ap­pear from southern ranges off Cal­i­for­nia and Ore­gon. — AP

SAN FRANCISCO: Jin­sen Zhao pulls an im­ported Dun­geness crab from the North­west out of a cooker at Fish­er­man’s Wharf. — AP pho­tos

SAN FRANCISCO: Im­ported Dun­geness crabs from the North­west are shown for sale out­side a restau­rant at Fish­er­man’s Wharf.

SAN FRANCISCO: Mark Covert, of Hous­ton, eats a sand­wich made with im­ported Dun­geness crab from the North­west at Fish­er­man’s Wharf.

SAN FRANCISCO: A sign is posted on the clo­sure of Dun­geness and rock crab fish­ing at Fish­er­man’s Wharf.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.