The stakes are stressfully high on the reality series Wicked Tuna, which is now in the middle of its 11th season. As National Geographic TV revealed in a press release for the show’s second season, the bluefin tuna fishermen of Gloucester, Mass., fight for their livelihoods amid “a short fishing season and dwindling tuna populations.” But how long is tuna season on Wicked Tuna anyway?
It might surprise you that the Wicked Tuna stars have just weeks to earn their salary for a year. “If I don’t catch a fish, I don’t have money to provide for my family,” Hard Merchandise Captain Dave Marciano explained in that press release. “Money doesn’t just fall from the sky — it comes out of the sea.”
The captains have 14 weeks to earn money for the whole year.
According to the press release, the tuna season is 14 weeks, and the fishermen have that long to earn their yearly pay. And because bluefin tuna stock plummeted by 75 percent between 1950 and 2013, the competition was even more cutthroat.
“Tuna fishing is a tough business, and you have to remain competitive,” said Dave Carraro, captain of the FV-Tuna.com. “My colleagues at sea don’t always agree with my methods, but I’ll do whatever it takes to stay on top.”
The rivalry on ‘Wicked Tuna’ is “real,” says Dave Marciano.
Both Daves weighed in on Wicked Tuna’s portrayal of the bluefin tuna fishing trade in a 2013 interview with Boston Magazine, with Marciano saying the “actual fishing days you see are accurate” but that what looks like day trips on the show are often multi-day excursions.
Marciano also said that the rivalry on the show is real, and that while the fishermen get along on shore, it’s “all about money” on the open sea.
“Fishing is my sole source of income for my family,” he explained. “That’s how I put my daughters through school, and my son. When you get out there, we’re talking fish that could be anywhere from $10,000 to as much as $20,000, for one fish. So when you’re talkin’ that much money, yeah, we seem to get along fine on shore, but when you get out there, and there’s that kind of paycheck involved, the elbows go up. It’s human nature.”
It’s stressful to not know when the next paycheck is coming.
Amid regulations regarding overfishing, Carraro and Marciano said they had to stick to a three-fish quota each day. But some days, that quota is a moot point, as Carraro told the magazine. “We try and catch three per trip, but that doesn’t always happen,” he said. “Most of the time we come back with just one.”
“We just hope that the next time we go out, we can make up for it,” Marciano added. “It’s one of the hard things about being a fisherman. Sometimes it gets very stressful on the home front when we don’t know where the next check is coming for groceries.”
Wicked Tuna airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on National Geographic TV.