'Without the commercial season, the whole community is going to lose lots of money'
CHARLESTON, Ore. -- Crabbers on the Oregon coast are taking a big hit. As of Friday, recreational and commercial bay crabbing are closed from Tillamook Head to the California border.
"It's heartbreaking. A lot of people are bringing families down, and it's nonstop coming through our doors," says Basin Tackle owner Rob Gensorek.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife had announced free fishing, clamming and crabbing after Thanksgiving this weekend, but now crabbing will not be available for many on the Oregon coast.
The closure is due to elevated levels of domoic acid, officials said.
"We have a ton of people that are coming down right now,” Gensorek says. “They're coming from California; they're coming from Idaho; they're coming from Washington, just specifically to crab here. And the sad (part), just last week we were taking all these phone calls telling folks it’s great crabbing. We've had a great crabbing season by the way, and they're coming down this weekend and this week, and we have to turn them back and say there's no crabbing."
The higher levels were found in Dungeness crab between Cascade Head and Cape Falcon.
The closure includes harvesting Dungeness and red rock crab in bays and estuaries, off docks, piers, jetties, and the ocean.
Commercial crabbers say the holiday season brings the most demand, and have already lost several sales across the country.
“Without the commercial season, the whole community is going to lose lots of money; that's a huge industry,” says Fisherman’s Wharf president Matt Ledoux. “Every year we land about 14 million pounds of crab in this area, so shutting down Oregon is going to greatly affect everybody's pocket books."
ODA officials say they will continue to test for toxins, and will remove the advisory after two consecutive tests in the safe range. For now, ODFW says crab and shellfish products sold in retail markets and restaurants remain safe to eat.