Posted by: acooksca | 02/21/2016

The State of Crab in San Francisco

Crab Louie at Salito's

Crab Louie at Salito’s

In two words: Not Good (if you are a commercial crabber) but Not Bad (if you are a diner.) Domoic acid, a neurotoxin that can cause seizures or death in humans, began showing up in California crabs in April after unusually warm waters caused colossal algae blooms. The season’s planned opening date in mid-November was canceled for everyone…individual fishermen and the commercial crabbers alike.

On Feb. 12, 2016, the California Department of Health announced that sport fishing for the crustaceans was permitted south of Point Reyes. Yet a week later we saw hundreds of dry crab traps stacked in a field at Shelter Cove and even more in the parking lot of Half Moon Bay’s commercial fishing pier. The season remains closed for industry fishermen.

Some San Francisco restaurants have taken crab off the menu. Yet even in years when the local catch is good, many of the whole Dungeness crabs and the frozen crabmeat found in walk-away-cocktails at The Wharf comes from Washington State. Two weeks ago we had wonderful crab sandwiches at The Waterfront Restaurant in The City and today a classic crab Louie salad at Salito’s in Sausalito. Prices are the same or only slightly higher than last year. We are told that demand is down. The crab/toxin issue has made many diners fearful of ordering crab, even when it is from uneffected Washington.

As of Feb. 20th the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reports still show the toxin in a few northern California areas. Once these test clean there is a chance of opening the season. The commercial season ends in June, but a few weeks can help the crabbers recoup at least some of their losses. To date the local industry has lost 46 million dollars, according to Governor Brown.

For crabs taken privately, health officials advise being extra safe: remove the top shell and tear out the feathery parts and guts before cooking. Steam or boil the crabs (rather then fry or broil) and discard the cooking water. I prefer steaming so the delicate oils aren’t washed away from any exposed meat.

More information in this Feb. 17, 2016 article:



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