How Much Does a Deckhand Make on a Tuna Boat? (Salary)

how much does a deckhand make on a tuna boat

Thanks to shows like Wicked Tuna, we have collectively acquired greater respect for tuna boat deckhands. Performing demanding, challenging, and often dangerous work, these guys make up the backbone of the $2.5 billion dollar tuna industry. And after seeing how hard these people work, many assume they get compensated a handsome sum.

But do they? The truth about deckhand work is that it might be demanding, but it’s not always the most lucrative. So exactly how much does a deckhand make on a tuna boat? The numbers might surprise you.

Average Salary for Tuna Boat Deckhands in the US

There are numerous factors that can contribute to the fluctuating salaries of tuna boat deckhands. Things like years in the industry, location, and the specific budget of the company itself can cause big changes in the computation of a deckhand’s salary.

On average however, tuna boat deckhands in the United States stand to earn $43,558 annually. 

Bonuses are averaged at $7,344, which is 17% of their regular salary. Compared to most office workers who average just 2.5 to 7.5% in bonuses, that’s an obvious upgrade.

If we’re breaking that down to an hourly rate, a tuna boat deckhand would make around $21 average per hour. 

Keep in mind though that hourly rates change per state, depending on how lively the tuna industry might be in that particular area.

Factors Affecting Tuna Boat Deckhand Salary

Fluctuations in the salaries paid to tuna boat deckhands can be attributed to a variety of factors. These impact the paying power and preferences of employers, which explains why tuna boat deckhands can get paid significantly different rates across the country.

Some factors that can affect their salary include:


Some places might not pay as much for deckhands because the tuna industry might not be quite as lively. In the United States, the biggest places for tuna fishing are found along the west coast, so naturally, salaries for deckhands in the area tend to be much higher.


Being a deckhand requires skill and expertise. The longer you’ve been in the business, the bigger a company would be likely to pay for your services. That’s also because they won’t have to spend too much time trying to train you, so you’re more likely to help run a tight ship than someone who’s still on the learning curve.


Of course, the size and capability of your employer to pay more will affect how much you actually receive as compensation for your services. There are lots of small time companies out there that hire just a few crew members to shave down their overhead expenses. Don’t expect to get paid the maximum if you’re hired by a start-up.

How Much Do the Deckhands on Wicked Tuna Make?

The guys on Wicked Tuna are more than just deckhands and boat crew. They’re essentially actors at this point. So they get paid way more than the average deckhand on a tuna boat. When the show was just starting out, it was reported that the deckhands made an average of $1,500 per episode.

However as time drew on and their popularity increased, the Wicked Tuna deckhands saw a sharp upturn in their salaries. Today, it’s reported that a Wicked Tuna deckhand can make as much as $10,000 per episode.

What Does a Tuna Boat Deckhand Do?

tuna boat deckhand

A deckhand is essentially the all-around crew mate. They do a whole bunch of things for the boat to make sure that operations run smoothly. So they’re all about maintenance, with a few other tasks tossed in between.

Some of the things a tuna boat deckhand is responsible for include:

Maintenance and Cleaning

A dirty, littered, cluttered boat is an accident waiting to happen. Tuna boat deckhands are responsible for cleaning the deck and cabin to make sure that no one slips, falls, and breaks something. General maintenance duties are part of the everyday routine.

Equipment Care and Repair

An engineer is mostly responsible for serious repairs. But deckhands can also join in on the task especially if it’s nothing too major. That’s why deckhands need to have some level of experience with minor repairs and maintenance procedures.

Safety Management

A deckhand will be highly concerned with the safety of everyone on board. That includes constantly checking the boat for potential damages that can be nipped at the bud, and keeping an eye on the surroundings to make sure the boat is in safe conditions.

Manual Labor

Whether it’s catching the fish, moving equipment and machines on board, stowing away supplies, or even towing or docking, these guys are always there to lend a hand. That’s also probably why they’re some of the most tired guys on the boat.

Fish Care

If the boat you’re working on aims to keep the tuna fresh, they’ll try to keep them alive. Some boats make the deckhands feed the tuna on a routine basis to ensure that the catch is kept as fresh as possible while it’s on board.

Tips on Becoming a Tuna Boat Deckhand

If the guys from Wicked Tuna have inspired a career change and you’re seriously considering applying as a tuna boat deckhand, try to keep these tips in mind to improve your chances of getting hired:

Get Fit

Yes, deckhands are put through rigorous physical fitness checks to make sure they’re up to the challenge. The deckhand life isn’t for everyone, and it’s definitely demanding work. That said, all applicants need to demonstrate peak physical condition to meet the job’s demands.

Acquire Safety Certification

Taking safety courses, basic life support training, and other training certifications can significantly improve your chances of getting hired. Accidents are common on board a tuna boat, so companies are always looking to hire people who can reduce or mitigate the complications of injuries on board.

Enroll in a Training Program

If you’re entirely new to the maritime industry, you can enroll yourself in a maritime training program to bring you up to speed on the basics of being on a boat. This should eliminate the need for in-depth training, making you more hireable for most companies.

All Hands on Deck

How much does a deckhand make on a tuna boat? Well, honestly not a lot. But if you’re looking to bust into the maritime industry and you don’t know where to start, then a deckhand position might be the right choice.

As you gain experience and become more adept at the trade, you can easily climb up the ranks and enjoy more benefits and better pay. And who knows, you might just find yourself on a brand new season on Wicked Tuna. Hey, a person can dream, can’t they?

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