'Wicked Tuna': T.J. Ott Hit With 5-Figure Fine After Illegal Act

Wicked Tuna star Timothy J. "TJ" Ott landed at the center of real-life drama this past winter. He was ordered to pay Massachusetts authorities a large five-figure fine for illegally selling bluefin tuna at a Gloucester fish market without necessary permits in 2021. Ott is the captain of the fishing vessel Hot Tuna, which is a favorite on the National Geographic Channel show.

Back on Dec. 7, 2022, the Massachusetts Environmental Police revealed that its officers began investigating the illegal sale of bluefin tuna, a federally-regulated species in October 2021. During the investigation, they discovered that bluefin tuna was being sold at a Gloucester fish market, and a captain faced criminal charges. In November 2022, the captain reached a plea deal with the state and paid $13,000 in fines for the illegal sale of the fish.

Although the post didn't mention Ott, the Gloucester Daily Times later reported that he was the captain involved. He faced nine counts of violation of a commercial fishing license, Essex District Attorney spokesperson Carrie Kimball told the outlet. Ott paid $13,500 in restitution. The money will go to the state's environmental trust fund, the district court clerk said.

"It is illegal for an individual without a commercial permit issued through the Department of Marine Fisheries to sell any fish that they catch," the Massachusetts Environmental Police's Facebook post reads. "Additionally, it is illegal for a fish house to purchase fish from an unpermitted individual. These requirements assist the Division of Marine Fisheries and NOAA to regulate catch quotas that are in place to ensure the long-term survivability of fish species."

The case against Ott began on Oct. 16, 2021, when officers on a patrol vessel were inspecting marine fisheries at Stellwagen Bank National Sanctuary, according to the Massachusetts Environmental Police reports. While inspecting tuna vessels, they noticed the Hot Tuna, which has a federal charter/head boat permit for 2021 from National Marine Fisheries. This allows it to fish commercially and recreationally for bluefin tuna, but commercial fishing of tuna was closed at the time. While the officers didn't stop Ott from fishing, they did an administrative search of his permits. They found his federal license for 2021, but could not locate his state Division of Marine Fisheries 2021 permit, reports the Gloucester Daily Times.

Wicked Tuna debuted on the National Geographic Channel in April 2012. The show's 12th season debuted last month. The show and its spinoff, Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks, are streaming on Disney+ in the U.S.