Bluefin Cowboys

— The Grace Mariculture Project would be used to determine the economic and environmental feasibility of tuna ranching in the U.S. Sylvia said that the fact the project would take place on an operational oil platform would not have any effects on what SeaWorld hopes to accomplish. According to Sylvia, any profits from sales would go into marine research. Hubbs is a public nonprofit charity.

But the industry that has recently been marked by funding from Standard Oil was not always so tailored to accommodate the speed and profitability of the business world.

"My father was a fisherman, so was his father," said John Zollezzi. "It's what I knew." After graduating from Point Loma High School in 1948, Zollezzi served two years in the Korean War. When he returned to Point Loma at the age of 21, he found work as a fisherman. "Everyone knew everybody, there was a camaraderie you don't see anymore," Zollezzi said.

Over 40,000 people were employed directly or indirectly by the tuna industry. Large companies like Van Camp Seafood Co., Starkist Foods, Bumble Bee Seafood, Pan Pacific, and other small canneries processed tuna here. Most fishing in those days was done off of the coasts of Mexico, Central America, and the Galapagos Islands.

Andrew Castagnola began fishing tuna as a teenager in 1928, fishing pole-and-line early in his career and later working on the tuna boats. "So much was going on around you," Castagnola said, describing work on the purse seiners. "You had all that hydraulic gear above you. I knew of several guys who got killed by the booms," he added.

"We didn't stay home that long, maybe a week or two," said Zollezzi. After the vessel was laden with tuna in some remote port, it was bound for San Diego to unload at the cannery, get paid, load provisions for the next trip, kiss their babies good-bye, and ship out again. "Around Christmas, we'd all try to be back," Zollezzi added.

After WWII, large corporations began buying up canneries in California. "It just stopped," said Zollezzi. "There was nobody to deliver fish to." Consolidation of smaller canneries left fishermen like Zollezzi profitless.

The demand of large corporations exceeded the supply of local fishermen, who were unable to provide enough tuna to fill the quotas of a conglomerate, and the industry faded. Foreign competition, rising costs, environmental concerns, and a host of other problems forced the big corporations to close remaining canneries, sell the fleets to foreign interests, and move on.

"By and large we felt the effects of it," said Anthony Ghio, owner of Ghio Seafoods and Anthony's Fish Grotto. John Zollezzi's two sons are fourth-generation fishermen. One is stationed in Ecuador, and the other, off the coast of Australia. Unlike the Japanese market, there is no premium price to be paid for this kind of fishing. Like Zollezzi's sons, Castagnola's son Vito has worked on a large seiner for the past decade, fishing yellowfin and skipjack off the coast of Mexico.

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