Interviewee: August (Auggie) Felando

Role: Former President of the American Tuna Boat Association, Maritime/Fishing Lawyer, Retired U.S. West Coast Tuna Fisherman

Date of Interview: 11/22/2012

Collection: Tuna Industry Pioneers of San Pedro and Terminal Island, CA

Click on the link below to view the interview.

Auggie Felando interview

Abstract: Mr. Felando discusses exploratory purse seine fishing ventures conducted by West Coast-based tuna fishermen to open up new fishing grounds outside of the established eastern Pacific grounds. In doing so, they encountered large schools of yellowfin tuna in association with dolphin (which they referred to as porpoise). He describes the efforts of these pioneering tuna boat captains to develop gear and methods in collaboration with the National Marine Fisheries Service that led to dramatic reductions in the number of dolphins entangled and killed in tuna purse seine nets.


There was a lot of controversy about the status of yellowfin resources in the Eastern Pacific and there were efforts, now okay we have a conservation program. What adjustments can we make?  You can make an adjustment [i.e., move operations] to the Atlantic, East Coast.

We saw a lot of skipjack in 1962 off the east coast of the United States but it looked like it could be a purse seine fishery.  And people therefore said, Well, I don’t go that way; I’m going to go to the west.  And so they went outside “the line”1. So in 1969 was the first year it was successful doing it. It was a controversy…it that a real thing or people just faking it [i.e., catching fish outside the line]?

Anyway in 1970, Joe Madruga had been – earlier than 1970 – been out to Central Western Pacific and had seen fish around Palau. And he was convinced because what he saw there was people using one pole fish and forgetting all the two pole and three pole fish around there. So he flet that it was a new area we had to go into2.

So as the boats moved to the west below the “10 line” [10 degrees south Latitude] they started finding tuna associated with porpoise3. The people came down to us at the Association4 and said, ‘Hey, you know you have this problem here…’

So I had Harold Medina, Frank Gonsalves, Ed Madruga, and others – can’t remember right now…We had a meeting and Bill Perrin5 said, ‘Well, what we can do is have a hydraulic system cork line; we can lower the cork line, and the porpoise can go out but [I] would like to test it.

During the meeting, Harold was trying to suggest that there was a more simple way of dealing with the release of the porpoise and, rather than depending on hydraulic gauge or complicated use of sound6, and what have you, to scare the porpoise and redirect them.

And so after the meeting Harold said, ‘I have an idea. What we’ll do is reduce the size of the mesh of the net to reduce the possibility of porpoise nose getting stuck in the net and thereby impacting the “back down”.  The back down7  had already been developed by Anton Misetich in 1959 but they were still having [dolphin] mortalities. So Harold said, ‘I’m going to do it on my own.’

So he spend the money, got the 2 inch mesh installed in the boat in Panama and I said, ‘Let me know what happens.’

He came back in April 1971 and said, ‘Auggie, it works.’

I said, ‘Okay, lay out what you did so we can pass the word to everybody else how to make this panel, and insert this panel.’

So one of the first boats that did that was the Queen Mary – Joe Medina – and we found out that was successful. And then the government didn’t believe Harold and placed an observer aboard and they found, yes, it was working to reduce porpoise mortality.

To learn more about Auggie and view his photos, click here

This collection is part of an effort to create a film about the origins and history of the West Coast tuna industry in San Pedro and Terminal Island, CA. At the heart of it all were immigrants from Japan, Croatia, Italy, and Portugal. The current global tuna industry still uses many of the innovations pioneered in those early days.  More information and footage at:

The "Line" refers to the outer boundary of the Interamerican Tropical Tuna Commission’s (IATTC) Yellowfin Regulatory Area (see map below). The IATTC set annual catch quotas for yellowfin tuna inside the area.  

2 One pole, two pole, etc. refers to the size of tuna that could be caught by a single man and single bamboo pole, two men with two poles joined to one hook, etc.

Fishermen often used the term “porpoise” when describing their observations and interactions with small cetaceans, specifically dolphins from the family Delphinidae.  Porpoise species are members of the family Phocoenidae. 

4 American Tunaboat Association

5 Bill Perrin was a National Marine Fisheries Service biologist who was the first government at-sea observer to document dolphin mortalities as a result of U.S. tuna fishing operations in the eastern Pacific Ocean. He was instrumental in working with industry to help craft the conservation measures that led to dramatic declines in dolphin mortalities in the fishery.

Use of sound refers to a novel technique at the time, pioneered by to Captain John “Blacky” Zorotovich, using sound from the sonar to scare dolphin away from the boat.

7 Refers to the procedure of running the vessel in reverse to create a teardrop shape to the purse seine net which would depress the cork line at the apex of teardrop allowing the dolphins to swim out of the net.