Less than a month into the commercial fishing season for California spiny lobsters, the Department of Fish and Game announced a domoic acid warning this week for would-be eaters of the shellfish as well as rockfish. The warning comes as routine testing of lobsters and rockfish in and around the northern Channel Islands region showed elevated levels of the toxin.
As a result of the warning, Fish and Game is advising that only the meat of the shellfish (which is not impacted by the acid) be consumed while all other parts (i.e., the viscera) should be avoided until further notice to prevent risk of nasty side effects.
Typically associated with algae blooms, domoic acid is a neurotoxin that, minutes to hours after eating infected seafood, can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or headaches — all of which clear up within days. In extremely rare cases, potentially life-threatening symptoms can develop.
Commercial lobster season kicked off in California on October 6 (recreation fishing for the shellfish began four days prior). The fishery, which has 202 licenses statewide, is largely based out of the Channel Islands region. In fact, of the 150 or so licenses typically active in any given season, roughly one-third of those come out of the Santa Barbara and Ventura harbors.
According to Fish and Game biologists, the cause of the current domoic acid flare-up is unknown at this time.