Saturday could mark start of crab season 

Local crabbers have started to reload their boats with crab traps, hoping that test results expected by the end of the week will show that wildlife caught in the Bay and the nearby ocean is safe for humans after toxic shipping fuel spilled into the water earlier this month from a container ship.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an order suspending all fishing and crabbing for human consumption in the areas affected by the spill; that ban is due to expire Saturday.

Additionally, almost all local crabbers have chosen to stay off the water in the wake of the Cosco Busan crash, which spilt 58,000 gallons of shipping fuel into the Bay, until the crabs are ruled safe, according to Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations.

Dungeness crabs, rock crabs, herring, surf perch and mussels were caught inside and outside the Bay before Thanksgiving and sent to labs, according to California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment spokesman Sam Delson.

Raw data from the tests is expected back from the laboratories today, and Delson said he hopes it will be analyzed by the weekend.

"Normally, it would take several months to fully analyze this data," Delson said, "but because of the urgency of the situation, we’re going to do our best to complete our evaluationin about 36 hours."

Delson said work has already been completed to determine existing contamination levels in marine life, and to determine safe human consumption levels of contaminants.

Time will also be shaved off the analysis stage by skipping normal review stages in the scientific peer review process, Delson said.

The wildlife will be tested, according to Delson, mainly for aromatic hydrocarbons, a group of cancer-causing toxins found in shipping fuel.

Additional samples of Dungeness crabs are also being tested for taste and smell, to make sure they’re OK for crab crunching consumers, according to Delson.

Annette Traverso of Alioto-Lazio Fish Company said few people are buying crabs because of safety fears, even though crabs don’t come from the Bay. "The crabs aren’t moving," she said Tuesday.

jupton@examiner.com

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