Reality series focuses on life of tuna fishermen

National Geographic Channel could be courting controversy with a new show called “Wicked Tuna” — a reality series about the hardscrabble life of commercial fishermen in the Boston suburb of Gloucester, Mass.

The fish these folks are after is the Atlantic bluefin tuna — a critter that just barely avoided the federal government’s “endangered” classification in 2011, to the dismay of environmental groups.

Nat Geo says the fishing is highly regulated and sustainable, but the second claim is still hotly disputed. “Wicked Tuna” will follow the good ships Tuna.com, the Bounty Hunter, Hard Merchandise and Odysea as they attempt to nab the elusive fish with only hand-held angling gear and harpoons in accordance with Massachusetts law.

In November, a Massachusetts fishing crew accidentally bagged an 881-pound bluefin in a trawling net — one of the biggest fish catches ever recorded (the fish was confiscated by the state environmental police).

The series is produced by Craig Piligian’s Pilgrim Studios, the shingle behind “Dirty Jobs” and “Top Shot.” Piligian and Mike Nichols produce.

Nat Geo’s other series announced at TCA on Friday is “Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?,” produced by “Deadliest Catch” and “Ice Road Truckers” shingle Original Prods. In “Boy Scout,” adults compete for merit badgets with teenage scouts, following the rules set down in the BSA’s century-old handbook. That series has been picked up for six segs; no episode count was given for “Wicked Tuna.”

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