SoCal Seafood Contaminated With Toxic Chemical

Officials issue warning against eating roe, internal organs of rock crab and lobster.

Getty Images

Southern California residents should think twice before eating certain kinds of shellfish. Elevated levels of domoic acid, a toxic chemical, were in samples of lobster and rock crab found near the northern Channel Islands.

The California Department of Fish and Game has announced an advisory for seafood consumers to not eat any internal organs, including roe, of lobsters and rock crabs from Southern California.

The meat of shellfish is not affected, so consumers shouldn't be discouraged from eating the seafood, said Kristine Barsky, a senior invertebrate specialist for the Department of Fish and Game.

But consumers should be aware of the warning and avoid eating internal organs or roe from these shellfish.

Symptoms of domoic acid poisoning can arise within a half an hour after consumption to a day after eating contaminated seafood. People often experience nausea, vomiting and cramping in mild cases. Severe cases include headaches, hallucinations, confusions, seizures, and even death in the most extreme cases.

"To date, there have been no known cases of poisoning," said Barsky. "DFG biologists are working with the Department of Public Health to increase the level of sampling for domoic acid along the coast."

Although no cases of domoic acid poisoning have occurred in California, a 1987 outbreak of domoic acid poisoning in Canada killed three people and more than 100 others were affected by various toxicity symptoms.

Chris Mobley, superintendent for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, said that domoic acid poisoning is different from other kinds of shellfish poisoning and can be widespread.

"Domoic acid is a toxic chemical found in plankton, the base of the food web. Plankton is a large part of the diet for shellfish, so they can get a lot of [domoic acid]," Mobley said.

Mobley said that large mammals like sea lions and dolphins are also susceptible to domoic acid toxicity.

The Department of Fish and Game has said the advisory is in place until further notice.

Contact Us