The California spiny lobster fishery opened on Sept. 29, at 6 p.m. for recreational diving and hoop netting, followed by the commercial fishery on Wednesday, Oct. 4. The recreational opener is 12 hours earlier than past seasons this year, providing an extra night of recreational fishing opportunity.
However, state health agencies determined that spiny lobster sampled off of mainland Los Angeles County had elevated levels of domoic acid and recommended a delayed opening of the recreational and commercial fishery in the area. Following this recommendation, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham enacted a delay to start the recreational and commercial spiny lobster fisheries within specific areas of Los Angeles and Orange counties. Areas immediately surrounding the recreational delay area will be open to recreational take under an advisory issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to avoid consuming the viscera (tomalley) and roe (eggs) of spiny lobster. Cooking lobsters neither decreases nor destroys the toxin, so consumers are advised to discard the viscera, roe, and cooking liquids.
The delay areas shall remain in effect until OEHHA, in talk with the State Public Health Officer of CDPH, determines that domoic acid no longer poses a significant risk to public health. Both delays are contingent upon additional sampling, planned for next week. Samples from Sept. 18 were below the health hazard threshold. If following weeks samples are also below the threshold, the delays may be lifted.
The recreational delay area is defined as state waters between the following landmarks: the northern boundary of the Point Vicente SMCA and the westernmost point of the Long Beach Breakwater. The area is bounded by straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed except where noted: 33° 44.800′ N. lat. 118° 24.807′ W. long.;
33° 44.800′ N. lat. 118° 28.931′ W. long.; thence southeastward along the three nautical mile offshore boundary to 33° 40.384’ N. lat. 118° 10.850’ W. long.; and 33° 45.640’ N. lat. 118° 10.850’ W. long. Transiting the area with spiny lobster in possession is allowed as specified in the Director’s Declaration.
The commercial fishery is delayed in state waters off Palos Verdes, Los Angeles County, to Huntington Beach, Orange County, within the following coordinates: between 118° 0.00’ W longitude and 118° 30.00’ W longitude and between 33° 40.00’ N. latitude and 33° 50.00’ N latitude. When the commercial season opens on Oct. 4, take of spiny lobster will be prohibited in this area. Please see the Director’s Declaration regarding allowances for commercial lobster trap deployment and transiting and possessing lobster in the area.
According to Fish and Game Code, section 5523, the Director of CDFW will notify the Fish and Game Commission of the delay and request that the Commission schedule a public discussion at its next meeting.
Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin produced by Pseudo-nitzschia, a naturally occurring single-celled marine alga, under certain ocean conditions. Domoic acid can accumulate in shellfish, other invertebrates, and sometimes fish without the organism becoming ill themselves. At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea, and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss and seizures and can, in some cases, be fatal. State and federal laws prohibit the commercial distribution of seafood products that contain domoic acid levels above the federal action level, which is 20 parts per million in the viscera of spiny lobster.