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

Role: Retired Tuna Fishermen

Date of Interview: 11/22/2013

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

Click on the link below to view the interview.

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

Abstract: 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.


FG. Sr: Here we are in 160 foot vessel - my wife, my daughter, my two sons, and the baby puppy dog that we've just inherited on our way to Puerto Rico where [we] were living at the time.

FG. Jr: In the early phase, it was much more of family business and you got to see your father more often because the trips were shorter and he'd fish closer to California, closer to home.

FG Sr.: Sure enough – there's a hurricane coming. And what hurricane? It happened to be Hurricane Camille the biggest hurricane that had hit in 80 years.

Steve G: But as the boats got bigger and, of course, your parent would be away a lot longer, you spend a lot of time in your household with your mom being both parents.

FG Sr: If we go back and it speeds up and it catches us, we're going to be in dire straits. I says 'nope, I'm not going home; I'm going to keep going'.

Steve G: So I'd say she was as tough as he was here at home as he was out fishing.

FG Sr: And about midnight that night we started to get into rough weather and the boat started bouncing. All the salt we piled down below had fallen all over. The jugs in the icebox we're breaking. And my two kids, they were seven or at eight years old then, they were running down the aisle and the boat's going down, and they thought they were in an amusement park because they're up in the air and the boat's down here and their mother is yelling at them. They thought it was the funniest thing that ever happened. They never had so much fun.

Steve G: She told herself when she was younger that she would never marry a fisherman because she already knew what the life was going to be like and she didn't want to go there. So, she ended up marrying my dad.

FG Sr: And believe it or not, I'd not gotten seasick all my life. My wife my daughter my two sons, who got seasick? – me and the dog! We're both seasick we're heaving and these guys are playing like they're in heaven!

Steve G: I would have to say, I have to take my hat off to her because as tough as it was and for the problems they had to go through various periods of the industry, she was always there.

FG Sr: I enjoyed having my sons with me very much because unfortunately I spent many years in all of their younger days away from them. I would come home for a week, two weeks at the most, and I was going again anywhere from 30 to 60 days and I didn't really know my boys until they came and fished with me. So it's with great pleasure that I accept[ed] my two sons as crew members.

FG Jr: It wasn't about the money. It was that following in your forefathers footsteps and going international to take over this multinational business that was multi generations in the making, that had this international crew going to all these exotic places; and there's just experiences you experience that you can't put a price on.

To learn more about the Gargas family and view their 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: