- Associated Press - Saturday, March 26, 2016

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) - The commercial crab season officially opened Saturday after being postponed for more than four months because tests showed high levels of domoic acid, a naturally occurring neurotoxin.

But local fishermen say they won’t know how salvageable their Dungeness crab season will be until Monday.

Michael Lucas, owner of North Coast Fisheries, will inspect the quality of the crab caught off the Sonoma Coast. His findings likely will make or break what’s left of the crab season that typically ends on June 30 in the waters south of the Sonoma-Mendocino county line, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported (http://bit.ly/1XVlmL3).

Lucas first must determine if the quality of the crab has any commercial value. He’ll determine that based on whether the crustaceans are molting and the quality of their shell and the meat.

He also must weigh whether crabbing this late in the season could hurt the local stock for next year’s season, such as interfering with their mating and molting cycle, he said.

“We could damage the next two or three years,” Lucas said of the potential harm that could be done in late harvesting.

The results are eagerly anticipated by local fishermen who have suffered economically since state officials postponed the season, scheduled to begin in mid-November. Local and state officials have pressed for federal disaster relief.

Crab company owner Tony Anello said that according to recreational fishermen the quality appears to be decent. Recreational fishermen were allowed to start harvesting crab off the Sonoma coast since March 18.

“It just hinges on the quality of crab out there right now,” Anello said. “This has been a real mess.”

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Information from: The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, http://www.pressdemocrat.com

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