State leaders to hold meeting on Dungeness crab season delay

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- Crab season will be front and center at a major meeting of fishermen, customers and wildlife experts today.

Today's meeting goes from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. You can watch it live here.

State leaders are holding a meeting in Santa Rosa today that will be focusing on public health issues, ocean conditions and the coastal fishing economy.

Local crab fishermen have taken a big hit ever since state officials announced in early November, the crab fishing season would be indefinitely delayed because of an unprecedented toxic algae bloom, which created unsafe levels of domoic acid.

"I see a lot of people anxiously waiting to work to make some money," Tracey Castagnola said. "Basically everyone here is up for crab season during the holidays. So they're not having crab and it's making the holidays not quite so the holiday."

Crab is very popular during the holiday season. In fact, wholesaler Castagnola Seafood estimates it makes 70 percent of its profit during this time.

Another wholesaler in Santa Cruz named Stagnaro Brothers Seafood is also dealing with empty crab tanks.

However, there is some good news after the latest testing from the California Department of Public Health revealed the Dungeness crab from San Francisco, Half Moon Bay and Monterey are free of domoic acid, which is something that can make a person sick or if ingested in high levels can kill you.

Don't expect the ban to be lifted Thursday because officials said tests have to come back clean two weeks in a row before a process to open the season back up can begin. "We hope that they can open it hopefully before Christmas, that would be nice. I don't know if that's going to be possible or not, but that's our hope. If not it could be a long cold winter," Stagnaro Brothers Seafood employee John Tara said.

Commercial Dungeness crab harvests in California were valued at $60 million last year.

WATCH VIDEO: Delayed crab season hurts Bay Area fishermen, restaurants

Most crab fishermen are spending their time catching rock fish and ling cod, which are less lucrative to sell than Dungeness crab.

VIDEO: Oregon, Washington postpone crab season due to toxic algae
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