Every year for many years, the Key Peninsula Civic Center has hosted a mid-winter crab feed.

Over the years they’ve raised thousands of dollars for the center’s activities.

This year, however, the opening of commercial crab season was delayed for nearly two months after elevated levels of domoic acid were found in Dungeness crabs in Oregon and California. Those fisheries were immediately closed. Although the crabs in southern Washington tested safe, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) closed our state’s commercial fishery to prevent overfishing in Washington.

So the KP crab feed has been delayed until March 12.

“We were worried about the shortage of crab,”said Patty Ghiossi, marketing and facilities coordinator for the civic center.

“We can’t afford to buy crab and feed all the people at the going price. It would have made the tickets prohibitively expensive,”Ghiossi said.

The civic center board of directors deliberated about the situation for a couple of months, Ghiossi added. “Ultimately we decided that the only way we can make it happen is to postpone it.

“We thought about maybe doing a seafood dinner, but people come for the crab,” she said.

In addition to crab, the menu for the crab feed also includes spaghetti, salad and garlic bread.

According to a Dec. 8 press release from WDFW, domoic acid is a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae. It can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities, and cooking or freezing does not destroy the toxin in shellfish.

Typically, Washington, Oregon and California coordinate their commercial Dungeness fishery openings to prevent too many crabbers from concentrating in small areas.

On Dec. 21, WDFW announced that Washington’s commercial crab fishery will open Jan. 4.

“Fishery managers for WDFW approved the opening in coordination with fishery managers from Oregon and California,”said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.

WDFW delayed the fishery opening, initially scheduled Dec. 1, to conduct additional marine toxin testing and coordinate coastal openings with Oregon.

“Results from these tests continue to show domoic acid levels below the health-safety threshold set by state public health officials,”Ayres said.

“We understand the hardship that this delay has caused the coastal crab industry,”Ayres added. “However, it’s important to help make sure that the crab going to the marketplace is safe to eat.”

Hopefully, by the March 12 crab feed date, the price of crab will be affordable, Ghiossi said.

Meanwhile, the civic center is proceeding with the third annual Mardi Gras party on Feb. 6. That event will feature music by Richard Allen and the Louisiana Experience.

For information, visit kpciviccenter.org or call 884-3456

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