wicked tuna crews

The newest TV program to showcase the lives of fishermen isn’t just a wicked good time, it’s wicked educational.

The National Geographic Channel’s “Wicked Tuna” follows the crews of five bluefin tuna vessels based in Gloucester, Mass. — Tuna.com, Hard Merchandise, Odysea, Bounty Hunter and Christina.

Despite being up against the Country Music Awards for its premiere on Sunday at 10 p.m., the new series became the network’s highest-rated Sunday night telecast since New Year’s Day, pulling in more than 1 million viewers, including 548,000 viewers in the coveted 25- to 54-year-old demographic.

The show is as educational as it is entertaining. Bluefin tuna is widely regarded as overfished around the globe, but the situation is much more complicated than that. Thankfully, the National Geographic Channel did not eschew just how complicated the situation is, and, in addition to the show, has launched a multi-tiered effort to help audiences become more knowledgeable about the plight of bluefin.

The educational campaign includes public service announcements (PSAs) and a dedicated website. The site features an in-depth article on the history of bluefin as well as information and links to the many stakeholders involved in the survival of the species, from fishermen to environmentalists. The site also includes an active message board to give viewers a voice.

“Our hope is that the show can also be an entry way to bring a wider audience to what is a complex and complicated discussion,” said Michael Cascio, executive VP of programming for the National Geographic Channel.

“Wicked Tuna” also illustrates that it’s not just scientists that are worried about the species’ survival. Tuna.com Captain Dave Carraro said it’s important for the fishery to be sustainable, because, if it wasn’t, fishermen would be out of a job.

But the fishermen are hopeful that the bigger fish are returning. “They’re coming back now — it’s just starting,” said Tuna.com First Mate Paul Hebert. “The purse seiners over in Europe, where for years they didn’t have limits, are chasing away all the big fish. They’re coming over here. The size is getting bigger and bigger each year.”

It’s refreshing to witness a mainstream media outlet using a show not just for entertainment value but also for educational purposes, as it certainly would have been easier to bill “Wicked Tuna” as an action-packed East Coast version of “Deadliest Catch,” which showcases the lives of Alaska crab fishermen in the Bering Sea.

Hopefully, the show’s high ratings continue, turning viewers into knowledgeable consumers.

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