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Sport crabbing closed off south coast

A spike in domoic acid levels off the Southern Oregon Coast has triggered an immediate closure of the recreational crab fishery in the ocean and estuaries south of Bandon.

Monday's closure covers beaches, bays and estuaries from the Coquille River's north jetty south to the California border, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Unsafe levels of domoic acid were found in the viscera of two Dungeness crabs collected Friday and Monday off the Curry County coast, triggering a biotoxin closure, according to the Department of Agriculture, which monitors Dungeness for safe consumption.

Closures are issued when domoic acid levels in crabs measure above 30 parts per million.

One out of six crabs tested Monday off the Port Orford area contained 62 parts per million of domoic acid, while one out of six sampled Friday off Brookings showed 34 parts per million, according to agriculture officials.

The closure can be lifted when samples measure below that level for two consecutive weeks.

Domoic acid, a toxin produced by algae, has been found at high levels in razor clams along the Oregon Coast this year. Dungeness crabs collect the acid by eating razor clams.

Similar closures have dogged recreational crabbers the past three years. That included a closure to ocean and bay crabbing last February from Florence to the California border and a monthlong delay in the sport and commercial ocean Dungeness seasons in December 2015.

The commercial Dungeness season off the Oregon Coast is scheduled to open Dec. 1.

Domoic acid, or amnesic shellfish toxin, can cause minor to severe illness and even death in humans. Severe poisoning can result in dizziness, headaches, vomiting and diarrhea. More severe cases can result in memory loss and death. Shellfish toxins are produced by algae and originate in the ocean.

Toxins cannot be removed by cooking, freezing or any other treatment. ODA will continue to test for toxins in the coming weeks. Removal of the advisory requires two consecutive tests in the safe range.

It is recommended that crabs always be eviscerated prior to cooking. Evisceration includes removing and discarding the internal organs and gills. Despite the closure, crab and shellfish products sold in retail markets and restaurants remain safe for consumers, according to ODFW.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtfribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Sport crabbing closed off south coast