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Washington Coast's Grays Harbor Closed to Crabbing, Except Westport

Published 03/01/21 at 5:20 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Washington Coast's Grays Harbor Closed to Crabbing, Except Westport

(Westport, Washington) – Parts of the central Washington coast are closed to recreational Dungeness crabbing due to the presence of marine toxins. The announcement was made last week by state shellfish managers, which closed off the Grays Harbor area of the coastline as well as a couple of other sections – but leaving Westport still open to Dungeness crab fishing.

Based on recent marine toxin tests, the Washington Department of Health (DOH) has 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.

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Domoic acid is a naturally-occurring toxin created by some types of marine algae. It can be harmful – even fatal – if consumed. Washington state officials said cooking or freezing will not destroy the toxin in shellfish.

The phenomena keeps occurring and it’s frustrating to state wildlife officials.

“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, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager.

Shellfish managers working with DOH briefly opened Grays Harbor crab fishing for a time, only to have to close it again.

The one area where crabbing in Grays Harbor remains open is inside 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.

“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.”

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

More information about domoic acid can be found on WDFW's domoic acid webpage.

Harvesters can find up-to-date information on seasons and shellfish safety information on the Washington Shellfish Safety Map webpage.

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.

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