In an exclusive interview with Wide Open Spaces, Captain Dave Marciano of the FV/Hard Merchandise gives a sneak peak into the new season of “Wicked Tuna” on National Geographic.
Monday nights are about to be wicked awesome once again with the return of “Wicked Tuna” on National Geographic. As one of the most wildly successful shows on the channel, the fifth season of “Wicked Tuna” promises to be better and more action-packed than previous ones.
This season, six teams will be competing against one another to catch the most Atlantic bluefin tuna. As viewers know, some of the crews are recovering from a rough fishing season in the Outer Banks. Participating boats for Season 5 include the FV-Tuna.com (Captain Dave Carraro), Hard Merchandise (Captain Dave Marciano), Pin Wheel (Captain Tyler McLaughlin), Hot Tuna (Captain T.J. Ott), Wicked Pissah (Captain Paul Hebert), and newcomers, The Eric & Sarah (Captain Pete Speeches), a father and daughter team.
Reigning champion Captain Dave Marciano of the FV-Hard Merchandise was kind enough to speak with us recently about the new season, the popularity of the show, and the future of the fishing industry. Below is the interview:
Wide Open Spaces: “Wicked Tuna” has grown into a wildly successful show on National Geographic over the last few years. Why do you think the show is popular? What do you think hooks people into the show?
Dave Marciano: I really think what makes it a fun show is the cast and crew. All the different personalities put together is really what makes it a successful show, which was interesting. Because when this all started, mind you, when I was asked to be a part of this, I had no idea what we’re getting into. You know, but I said, “What the heck, I’ll do it.” There was a check involved. That’s what I do with my boat. I use my boat to make money so I said, “Oh, it should be fun!”
When this started that first season, I guess our target demographic was males 25-45 because they spend money. It’s a fishing show, that’s what we expected to attract, was males. The interesting thing is after that first season aired, we found out right away that all of a sudden the girlfriends and the wives were enjoying watching the show. What really surprised a lot of us too was the kid fans—how many kid fans we have. Maybe that’s because it’s a fishing show. I think that surprised everybody, even the folks we were working with who are on TV that our audience became much bigger than just those males. Again, ’cause after all, it was a fishing show. That’s who we expected to be targeting. And now, we found that our audience seems to be everybody. We have men and women and kids, and everybody seems to enjoy the show. It’s been a wild ride.
WOS: For those unfamiliar with the show, you and other fishermen compete against one another to catch coveted Atlantic Bluefin tuna. Our readers may notice the rivalries seem intens—just probably the nature of reality TV. Would you say there’s camaraderie between all the fishermen off-camera? Do you guys get along or no?
DM: Oh yeah, we get along. Yes, you’re correct, it’s a TV show, so maybe sometimes things highlighted are more and more intense than they are. After all, these fish are worth quite a bit of money. So even in the real world, we’re out there trying to catch fish worth money. At the height of that season, things happen–the elbows go out and everybody get a little pushy because it’s just human nature. You want to be better than the next guy, you want to make more money than the next guy, you want to catch more fish than the next guy. The truth is, at the end of the day, even all us fishermen out there–even fishermen that we may not know personally, we know we’re all out there for the same reason. You wouldn’t leave your worst enemy out there stranded. Even though we may not all be best of buddies, when it comes down to it, we’re all professionals in the same profession. Ultimately, we learn to get along in spite of the differences and in spite of the controversies that can sometimes erupt over fish that can be worth ten grand a piece.
WOS: For the span of the show, viewers have seen you guys fish in Massachusetts and most recently down in the Carolinas, and the “North vs. South” idea the show portrays. Do you personally prefer one spot over another? Do you enjoy fishing for tuna in both locations?
DM: Obviously, I think I prefer my home turf fishing in Gloucester, Maine. Fishing that Gulf of Maine area. That’s where I grew up, that’s my backyard. I know that fishery very well. And it’s a much longer season. In that northern fishery, if you will, we have 460 tons of tuna to work with as a collective group. So that turns out to be a much longer season. Whereas that southern fishery, we’re actually catching fish working with scientists. A big portion of those fish that we catch in the southern fishery are actually coming straight across the ocean from the Mediterranean stock of bluefin tuna. So you have big fish, huge distinct stocks of giant bluefin tuna. You have the western Atlantic stock and the eastern Atlantic stock, that eastern Atlantic stock being the Mediterranean fish. That as a whole, the biomass of that resource, is about 10 times larger than the western Atlantic stock. When we intercept those fish that are coming across after they spawn, that’s just a huge volume fishery. There’s just so much fish that come over with that. Again, the quota is very small ’cause that fishery doesn’t have a large history in terms of how long those fish have been caught and sold. So the quota is much smaller. Then you wind up with a 40 six-ton quota down there. That turns it into a real derby fishery where the fishery can last a week, a little more, or 10 to 14 days. Down there, the competition can get really intense because it’s such a small window to make a buck, if you will.
Now fishermen like myself, we tend to always suspect that there was something going on. One of the biggest things we would see is cookie-cutter bites and scars in some of the fish. What’s interesting about those cooke-cutter scars, is number one, they leave a very distinct round circle hole in the body of the fish. So the scar becomes a very distinct round circular scar. We kind of suspected these fish were lingering. It’s only through fishing and working with scientists over the years as we learned to manage this resource. And eventually, we got money for tagging to give a better handle on exactly how much mixing there is between these two stocks.
It’s been one of the kind of positive things that have come out of fishermen working with the government. If there’s science involved, somebody’s got to put up that money. Ultimately, the government winds up putting up that money. Some great things have come to manage that giant bluefin tuna stock. Still working with the government and science to get what we have now. Historically, the stock was, if you go back 15 years ago, it was at historic low levels. Some people describe it as us out there catching the last of the buffalo, so to speak. For more than 15 years, we’ve been managing the resource and we have a successful overall trend of increasing populations of giant bluefin tuna while we make a living fishing. As fishermen, we’re tasked to protect the resource while we make a living catching our resource.
WOS: Commercial fishing is one of the most regulated and arguably one of difficult professions in America today. What do you say to people who say negative things about the industry?
DM: That to me has been one of my little pet peeves. I’ve been a commercial fisherman my entire life. It’s one of the most highly regulated things in the world…It’s a cool little thing to put a face on the fishing industry. In the past, the environmental community at times working against us to get their message out and obviously sometimes I tend to disagree with. They can paint a pretty harsh picture of what commercial fisherman are. So it’s nice to kind of be able to put a face on that commercial fishing industry so people can start to understand where their seafood comes from because folks like me and others, as many guys like me out there, simply make a living from the sea–similar to farming except we’re out there in the ocean. We do care about the resources. We do care about the health of the ocean. We do care about our kids having a future in fishing.
WOS: Why do you think that more people are exploring recreational and commercial fishing, especially a lot of young people and young women? What role do you think fishermen like yourself play in promoting a positive image of fishing?
DM: Fishing resources sustainably is having abundant fisheries resources out there. Now the system isn’t perfect. We have fisheries that we need to work on but we have enough success stories that show when it comes to fisheries management, we can change the course of history. We can rebuild fish stocks. We’ve done it successfully with many different species–I think that’s what makes it attractive. Nobody wants to fish for something if there’s nothing out there to catch.
A lot of those increasing trends is that we have new impact on healthy fisheries. Fishermen as a group-the industry as a whole-has helped create this environment where we do have successful fisheries. And in many cases, an abundance of fish to catch. That’s the caveat, that yes, we have some stocks out there, so many different types of fish in the sea, that we’ve still got a good handle on the best way to manage them to have them be at their highest level of abundance. We have to collectively work with the scientific community to figure out what are the best solutions for creating this healthy resource.
Now here’s the the tricky part… We need to do this so guys like Dave can still make a living. Some people have the idea, “Well, we’ve just got to get rid of the those fishermen.” No, that’s not a good option for me or the guys who are like me. The key to sustainable fisheries is how do we allow Dave to exist and continue to fish albeit at a limited level so we can achieve higher levels of fish in the ocean in the long run.
WOS: Without giving away any spoilers, what do you believe that “Wicked Tuna” viewers expect from you and the other fishermen this season?
DM: I think this year, we had a fabulous year fishing…We’ve had some of the best fishing we’ve seen. All of the boats on the show, we’ve all had a great season. You can certainly expect one of the most exciting seasons yet just because we all had fantastic, fabulous fishing. You can expect a lot of action, a lot of excitement, and a lot of competition. It’s literally right up to the very end. You’re not going to able to figure out who actually came out on top of this thing.
Season 5, Episode 1- “Something to Prove” – will be premiering Monday, February 1, 2016, at 9pm EST.
Planning to tune into the new season of “Wicked Tuna”? Be sure to follow the show on Facebook and Twitter. If you want to keep up with Captain Marciano, connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well.