Whether you’ve been recently hooked on Wicked Tuna, or if you’re just curious and exploring potential business ventures, tuna fishing can look incredibly alluring. Raking in $2.5 billion dollars each year, the tuna market is anything but small fry. And because starting up your own tuna business calls for nothing more than a boat and some crew members, it might seem like a reasonable undertaking.
But before you hop on a boat to the high seas, you might want to consider the nitty gritty. How much does a tuna boat cost, and what kind of money would it take to maintain that thing? Discover the dirty details here.
How Much is a Tuna Boat?
For the record, a tuna boat isn’t just like any other boat. These fishing vessels are highly specialized, equipped with heavy machines and equipment that make them effective for commercial tuna fishing.
That said, these boats sing to the tune of up to $500,000 each, or more depending on its features and facilities. If you’re working with a limited budget, you might be able to snag a boat for just around $20,000.
Keep in mind though that these smaller boats might not be as effective at reeling it large hauls. If you’re going into commercial fishing with the hope of earning six figures or more, after the tuna fishing season is through, then you’d be much better off with at least a 32-foot boat under your name.
Examples of Tuna Boats from Wicked Tuna
Now, maybe you’re looking for more exact figures for tuna boats similar to those you’re seeing on Wicked Tuna. While there’s no knowing for sure what those boats cost, there are price estimates for the famous fishing vessels featured on the show:
Tuna Boat Name
Size and Model
44' Calvin Beal
The Bounty Hunter
32' Blue Hill Marine
36' Daniel's Head Novi Boat
45' Provincial Boat Builders
The Hot Tuna
48' Dixon Series 60 Detroit
Based on this table, it’s easy to see that tuna boat prices can vary greatly. In fact, you might even find used boats in the range of $40,000 to $50,000, so pretty much anyone can have access to the tuna fishing industry with these budget boat prices.
How Much Does It Cost to Operate a Tuna Boat?
Again, it’s important to remember that you can go tuna fishing even with a small one-man-operation. But if you’re looking to join the commercial tuna fishing industry with a boat that’s around 32-feet in size, you’re going to need a full on crew and the necessary equipment.
Here’s a breakdown of the annual operating expense of running and maintaining a commercial tuna fishing boat:
According to inside sources, a boat can shell out as much $9,000 on fuel for just a single trip. So it’s easy to see how fuel expenses can significantly increase the cost of operation, especially if you’ve decided to make the most of the fishing season. Other than that, you’ll also have to account for other expenses that rely on the amount of fish you’re bringing back with each trip. These include:
Unfortunately, there are also a lot of under the table transactions that happen that we can’t really account for. Tuna fishing is big business, and loads of opportunistic groups and authorities sap profits from honest tuna fishermen just so they can continue doing business.
So it’s definitely not going to be a cheap business. Factoring in these numbers, you could easily be paying close to half a million dollars in associated fees, expenses, and costs to run your boat each year. But if tuna fishermen are going out and fishing despite these fees, then you can assume they make more than these expenses demand.
How Much Do Tuna Boat Owners Make?
Now down to the bit you’ve probably be wondering about. How much does a tuna boat owner make? Again, that depends on how much fish you’re reeling in. Some boats can carry as much as 4000 tonnes of tuna in a single haul, which would obviously earn millions after being sold at dock prices.
Once all of the fees and expenses are subtracted from the total profits, the owner is typically left with half of the returns. The other half usually goes to the crew who splits it according to the role they play on board.
That said, the efficiency of your team plays a big role in the profits you make. Hiring a more experienced team of tuna fishermen allows you to bring home bigger hauls with each trip. Some tuna boat owners like to mix things up though by hiring a tandem of experienced crew members and a few greenhorns.
Hiring greenhorns means you won’t have to pay for their fishing licenses or their food allowance. This lets you save up a few extra thousand dollars for the year. If you hire a crew of all greenhorns, the savings might be significant. But that also means you’d have to sacrifice efficiency and risk reeling in fewer fish at the end of the season.
How Do They Compare To Other Boats?
Curious to see how the price of a tuna boat compares to other water vessels? Check out our guides to see how much other boats will set you back:
Is Tuna Fishing for You?
Well, that ultimately depends. It helps to first crunch the numbers - how much does a tuna boat cost? How much would you spend to keep it running? And how much can you bring back? If you feel like the often stressful and high-demand job of owning and operating a tuna boat is for you, then you might be able to max out your profits and offset expenses to build a profitable fishing empire.