Crab-Leg Up

May 25, 2016

il_570xN.592059156_s1uwGray skies and a cool breeze this near-noon Wednesday on California’s north coast as we cruise through a period of ‘seasonal temperatures‘ and foggy mornings here along the shoreline.

Yesterday, my fisherman ex-brother-in-law (and still very-good friend) presented me with some Dungeness crab he’d snagged somewhere in local waters, and just as the health-ban on the critters was lifted by the California Department of Public Health.

(Illustration: ‘Dungeness Crab,’ watercolor by Juan Bosco, found here).

Personally, I don’t really care for crab, or lobster for that matter, but my oldest daughter sure does, and she’ll have a feast.
Dungeness crabs were under a health advisory due to high traces of domoic acid, and the CDPH last week lifted the last warning on them — the advisory was for crabs caught due west from the west end of the north jetty at the entrance of Humboldt Bay, to a line extending due west from the mouth of Redwood Creek in Humboldt County.
The CDPH does continue one advisory (from Food Safety News yesterday): ‘The CDPH and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment concur that meat from Dungeness crabs caught along the coastline is safe to consume. However, consumers are advised to not eat the viscera — internal organs, also known as “butter” or “guts” — of crabs. The viscera usually contain much higher levels of domoic acid than crab body meat.’

And I’m no fisherman at all, or much of a seafood consumer — this nutshell via Lost Coast Outpost this past weekend:

Nervous about whether the crabs are safe to eat?
The scientists say they’re OK, and local crabber captain Dan Cox of the Express says he’s eaten some, and he’s still OK, mostly.
The advice is to remove the backs and fully clean out the “viscera” (which sounds like a good idea anyway).
The crab meat itself is not affected by the domoic acid neuro stuff, experts tell us.

A little slack ‘mostly,’ but a guideline of sorts.

The problem with the Dungeness, as in a shitload of other shit, is climate change — Duh!.
From Grist this morning:

Scientists reported in the journal Marine Biology that ocean acidification, which is caused when carbon dioxide pollution dissolves into oceans, can kill and stunt young crabs, potentially jeopardizing whole populations.

Ocean acidification is caused by carbon dioxide pollution — the same pollutant from fuel burning and deforestation that changes the climate.
After carbon dioxide dissolves into seawater, it undergoes chemical reactions that change the pH and remove chemicals needed by corals, shellfish, and other creatures to produce rigid body parts.
West Coast waters are more prone to acidification than other regions.
As the threat of acidifying waters weighs on the minds of crabbers, those who grow shellfish are already being directly affected.
The Pacific Northwest’s oyster growing industry has been experiencing substantial losses of young shellfish linked to acidification since 2005.
“The really tough situation with the shellfish industry on the West Coast was the first major alarm bell,” said Jeff Watters, director of government relations at the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy.
“That was the first moment where you literally had an industry who said, ‘Holy cow, this could shut us down.’”
Seth Miller, a Smithsonian Environmental Research Center scientist who wasn’t involved with the new study, said it added Dungeness crabs to the “long list of crustaceans and other invertebrates that will likely be negatively impacted” by ocean acidification during their larval stages.
“If Dungeness larvae develop slowly under acidified conditions, they’re likely going to struggle even more when you layer on other climate-related stressors like rising temperatures,” Miller said.

And the bottom-crawler-line from Paul McElhany, a NOAA ecologist who participated in the new study: ‘“We’re completely into new territory. Carbon dioxide has never changed this rapidly as far as we can tell.”

Crab-walk into the future…

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