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Commercial crab from south coast must be eviscerated to protect public health

February 16, 2018

SALEM, Ore.—The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have announced the establishment of a biotoxin management zone from Cape Blanco to the California-Oregon border, effective immediately. To protect consumers, all crab landed from this area must have the viscera (guts) removed by a licensed processor.

Dungeness crab internal organs (viscera) sampled from the area have biotoxins above the alert level, indicating that crab harvested from the biotoxin management zone must be eviscerated (gutted) before it is safe for consumption. Traceability measures that were put in place at the start of the season (Dec. 1, 2017) will be used to ensure that whole crab are eviscerated.

Crab meat remains safe for consumers who purchase it in retail markets or at restaurants. Domoic acid levels are elevated only in crab viscera, or the guts, of crab sampled and tested from this area of the Oregon coast.

Because of Oregon’s precautionary management of biotoxins, crab and shellfish products currently being sold in retail markets and restaurants are also safe for consumers.

ODA and ODFW will continue monitoring biotoxins in crab and shellfish to ensure that the concentrations of harvested products from all of Oregon remain below the alert level.

Domoic acid is a naturally occurring biotoxin produced by marine phytoplankton or algae that grow and bloom during certain seasons. When the algae are in high numbers, the biotoxin they produce is eaten and concentrated by crabs and other species.

Eating shellfish that is contaminated with domoic acid can cause illness in humans within minutes to hours resulting in cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, consumption can result in memory problems or even death. The toxin cannot be destroyed by cooking, adding baking soda, or any other method. Anyone experiencing these symptoms after eating seafood should contact a physician immediately.

Fortunately for crab consumers, the majority of domoic acid resides in the internal organs– not the meat– and is effectively removed through “evisceration” (also known as “backing”) of the crab, to remove the internal organs. For this reason, it is recommended that crab always be eviscerated prior to cooking, which includes removal and discard of the internal organs and gills.

For more information, call ODA’s shellfish safety information hotline at (800) 448-2474 or visit the ODA shellfish closures web page at:

For notices to the commercial crabbing industry visit ODFW commercial crabbing webpage at:



ODA- Alex Manderson at (503) 842-2607 or Judy Dowell at (503) 871-2118.
ODFW- Troy Buell at (541) 867-0300 ext. 225 or Caren Braby at (541) 867-0300 ext. 226
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