Winter in these parts is often punctuated by Dungeness crab dinners – in homes over the holidays and at the numerous benefits touting “Crab Feed” on handpainted signs along every byway.
The winter of 2015-16 has been proving a rough one for crab consumers and worse, for crab-fishing families along our dramatic Northwest coastline.
Why? The crabs are all on acid. Domoic acid, that is. Domoic acid is a kainic acid analog neurotoxin that causes amnesic shellfish poisoning, which does not cause one to forget what one just ate – but rather a fatal biotoxin that if consumed by sea-dwellers and then humans and other mammals can cause seizures, paralysis and death. It concentrates up the food chain, targeting the brain’s hippocampus. It shrinks and destroys this essential (and wonderfully named) part of the brain. Really a very clever and efficient microscopic diatom is the wee Pseudonitzschia australis. (We love science here at Quirkutopia).
Understandably, the crabbing season has been delayed by California State officials until this dissipates. Domoic acid (DA) is known as the “Red Tide” and is triggered by a harmful overbloom of algae. That in turn is fostered by warmer ocean waters – a sure sign that this is an EL Nino year. Sea lions and other creatures are sadly “canaries” in the coal mine of our changing ocean conditions and have been affected by the algal blooms in recent years.
Here at Quirkutopia we do NOT love the environmental harm humans do the oceans, and are famous for fighting those who would plunder our coast (more on that later)! This year, we are doing what we can to assist the fisher-families who are devastated by the halt in crabbing, which you can join in by donating here. Meanwhile we are making supporting local farmers who are having their first rains after many drought-stricken seasons, our feasts from local seasonal veggies. Wasn’t that one of our resolutions anyway?