San Pedro-Terminal Island Tuna Fishery Heritage Project

In the early 1900s, the West Coast tuna industry was born in the small coastal California town of San Pedro, near Los Angeles. An abundant coastal fishery allowed fishing and canning businesses to soon expand 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 San Pedro area, many of those who were involved during that era still reside there. They are the voices of our early American tuna fishery.  NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region is helping the Aquarium of the Pacific to record the oral histories of these pioneers. Their first-hand accounts provide important insights about the early days of the industry, including its operations and management, how they navigated challenges, and what life was like in a prosperous and diverse West Coast fishing community.

Production of a documentary film and development of a special exhibit at the Aquarium of the Pacific is underway to share this story. Accompanying education resources are also being developed, in collaboration also with University of Southern California's Sea Grant Program. Video clips from some of the interviews are also available on NOAA’s Voices from the Fisheries website. 

Interview Clips, Transcripts, & Photos

August (Auggie) Felando

Watch video | Transcript & Photos

Frank Gargas, Sr.

Watch video | Transcript & Photos

Frank Gargas, Sr., Frank Gargas, Jr. and Steve Gargas

Watch video | Transcript & Photos

Get Involved

For more information, please contact: tunahistory@noaa.gov