Tuna Pioneers: San Pedro-Terminal Island, California

  • Collection DOI:
    Principal Investigator:
    Jennifer Ise
  • In the early 1900's, the West Coast tuna industry was born in the small coastal California town of San Pedro, near Los Angeles. Fishing and canning businesses soon expanded to nearby Terminal Island developing into a multi-million dollar industry. At the heart of it all was a thriving immigrant community. Generations of immigrants primarily from Japan, Croatia, and Italy harvested tuna, supported the bustling fish markets, and worked in the canneries. They explored new fishing grounds and developed novel fishing and preservation methods that influenced the global tuna industry today. Though the large tuna fleet and canneries are now gone from the area, many of those who were involved still reside there. The interviews in this collection were conducted as part of an effort to create a short film about this history. 

Interviewee Collection Sort descending Description Interviewer Date of Interview Location of Interview Affiliation
Frank Gargas, Jr. Tuna Pioneers: San Pedro-Terminal Island, California

Captain Frank Gargas, Sr., and his two sons, Frank Jr. and Steve, reflect on their experience as a fishing family. Frank Sr. relays a time when the family was with him on the tuna boat and they encountered rough weather from Hurricane Camille (1969). Steve talks about his mother and what she faced as a wife of a fisherman, having her husband at sea much of the time. Frank Jr. reflects on what drew him to become a fisherman.

Unknown San Pedro, CA Aquarium on the Pacific, NOAA Fisheries - West Coast Region, Voices of the West Coast
Frank Gargas, Sr. Tuna Pioneers: San Pedro-Terminal Island, California

Captain Frank Gargas, Sr., and his two sons, Frank Jr. and Steve, reflect on their experience as a fishing family. Frank Sr. relays a time when the family was with him on the tuna boat and they encountered rough weather from Hurricane Camille (1969). Steve talks about his mother and what she faced as a wife of a fisherman, having her husband at sea much of the time. Frank Jr. reflects on what drew him to become a fisherman.

Unknown San Pedro, CA Aquarium on the Pacific, NOAA Fisheries - West Coast Region, Voices of the West Coast
Mary Misetich Tuna Pioneers: San Pedro-Terminal Island, California

Mary Misetich was born in 1912 in Washington. Her family later moved to San Pedro, where she lived for 90 years. In 1932, she married Dominick Misetich, a tuna fisherman. Both of their families came from the island of Brac, Yugoslavia.

Unknown San Pedro, CA Aquarium on the Pacific, NOAA Fisheries - West Coast Region, Voices of the West Coast
Richard Chikami Tuna Pioneers: San Pedro-Terminal Island, California

Richard was born in San Pedro in 1946; a third generation Japanese-American (sansei). In this interview, he recounts how his family came to be living in San Pedro from Japan, and the challenges they faced because of "yellow exclusion laws" and other discriminatory practices that prevented his grandparents from becoming U.S. citizens. His grandfather settled initially in a Japanese fishing community near Santa Monica, California where he ran a fish market. However, he was not legally allowed to hold a business license until 1954 when he was allowed to become a U.S. citizen.

Unknown San Pedro, CA Aquarium on the Pacific, NOAA Fisheries - West Coast Region, Voices of the West Coast
Nick Danelovich Tuna Pioneers: San Pedro-Terminal Island, California

Nick was born in Hvar, Croatia, in 1914, and his family moved to Oregon when he was young. He started salmon fishing at a young age in Astoria, and then went with his brothers to fish in Alaska when he was a bit older, and that is where he first became a cook for a fishing crew. He moved to San Pedro, California, at the invitation of a friend and became the cook for many years on a tuna boats owned and operated by Captain Frank Gargas, Sr.

Unknown San Pedro, CA Aquarium on the Pacific, NOAA Fisheries - West Coast Region, Voices of the West Coast
August "Auggie" Felando Tuna Pioneers: San Pedro-Terminal Island, California

August Felando was born in San Pedro, California, in 1929. His family roots reach back to Viz Island, Croatia, and Guernica in the Basque province of Spain. He fished on two-family owned tuna and sardine purse seine vessels during 1946-1950. In 1951, he became a co-owner of the F/V Challenger, a tuna baitboat, and as managing owner sold the vessel in 1958 for conversion to a tuna seiner. From 1960-1991, he managed the affairs of the American Tunaboat Association, including participation in hearings before the California State legislature, Congressional Committees, and federal agencies.

Unknown San Pedro, CA Aquarium on the Pacific, NOAA Fisheries - West Coast Region, Voices of the West Coast
Steve Gargas Tuna Pioneers: San Pedro-Terminal Island, California

Captain Frank Gargas, Sr., and his two sons, Frank Jr. and Steve, reflect on their experience as a fishing family. Frank Sr. relays a time when the family was with him on the tuna boat and they encountered rough weather from Hurricane Camille (1969). Steve talks about his mother and what she faced as a wife of a fisherman, having her husband at sea much of the time. Frank Jr. reflects on what drew him to become a fisherman.

Unknown San Pedro, CA Aquarium on the Pacific, NOAA Fisheries - West Coast Region, Voices of the West Coast