Interviewee: Nick Danelovich

Role: Retired Tuna Boat Cook in the U.S. West Coast Tuna Fishery

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.

Nick Danelovich interview

Abstract: 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.  Nick describes his schedule as a cook on the tuna boat and recounts the menu he prepared for the crew and Frank’s family during a Christmas spent fishing for tuna in the waters off of New Zealand.  He talks about making the crew happy by preparing special desserts for birthdays.  He reflects on the big differences between San Pedro now and back when he was fishing; when it was a bustling fishing port with tuna vessels lined up at the docks and how he enjoyed the smell of tuna in the morning coming from the waterfront.


My name is Nick Danelovich.  I was born in Hvar in former Yugoslavia (it’s Croatia now) in 1914 – February 1914.

I really started when I was a kid in Astoria – salmon fishing.  I grew up and went to school and went to Alaska for fishing with my brothers. I started cooking there for the reefer1 in that season. And then they invited me to come down to California and work on one of their boats. And then after that I went with Frank2 on the St. Helena3 and it had a nice electric stove and a nice kitchen there. Real nice.

So you get up at 2-3 in the morning and then how long would you be working before you go to sleep again?
Oh I would work and they would go to the set, and I’d then fix them breakfast and then you go to the set early, and then you prepare the next meal and so on.  And then in the afternoon you got to knock off for a while, you know.

Christmas time in New Zealand:  we had turkey and shortbread and shortcake and the guys from the other boat came over and his4 wife was there. We always celebrated and had a good time with the kids, [for] somebody’s birthday we would have the cheesecake or baked Alaska.

Well there is a big change in San Pedro.  I used to like the smell of tuna in the morning, but I don’t smell it anymore. When I came here everything was bustling, you know…there used to be boats lined up five in a row in the harbor.  Yes, it’s a different world.

To learn more about Nick 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:

Reefer” refers to a cold storage vessel that receives fish from many fishing vessels and transships the fish to shore-based storage and/or processing plants. 

2 Captain Frank Gargas (see Captain Gargas’ interview for more information on him)

3 The St. Helena was a purse seine tuna fishing boat owned by Van Camp Seafoods and operated by Captain Frank Gargas.

4 Captain Frank Gargas’ wife.