Shellfish are contaminated
Climate change may be to blame for the shifting water temperature patterns which have caused an unusual spike in shellfish toxins off the coast of California. Too bad, too, because the Dungeness crab fishery was set to open on November 15th. However, authorities have warned that the crab is dangerously contaminated.
Shellfish become contaminated with a neurotoxin called domoic acid. The neurotoxin is produced by microscopic marine algae. As the crabs eat the algae, it concentrates the domoic acid in their bodies, eventually rising to levels that can severely harm human beings.
Half an hour after eating, the neurotoxin can cause effects like headaches, dizziness, cramps, and vomiting. These symptoms can last for several days. Severe cases can result in seizures, coma, difficulty breathing, and (rarely) a condition called amnesiac shellfish poisoning, which is a form of permanent short-term memory lost.
This algae is typically only a problem in warmer months, when algae flourishes. It's unusual for the algae to be this active this late in the year, although it is an unusually strong El Nino year.