‘Wicked Tuna’: Here’s Why the Fish Are Wrapped in ‘Green Film-Like Plastic’

by Amy Myers

The bluefins that the Wicked Tuna crews catch become sushi even before they hit the shore. Once properly processed, many anglers like to wrap their catches in a “green film-like plastic,” or, more commonly known as rice paper.

While the crews of Wicked Tuna are generally pretty adamant about explaining their tactics and techniques on the water, sometimes, those small yet crucial details fall through the cracks. So, when fans are scratching their heads over the answer, they turn to other Wicked Tuna fanatics. In a subreddit, one fan asked why the anglers used green plastic to cover their catches.

“I’m curious what the green film/plastic is they put on the tuna and why? Also when they look at the correct sample and say theres no burn, what’s that mean??” the confused fan wrote. Others tried to help the viewer understand as best as they could.

“Rice paper to preserve the color on the fish. They are talking about the burn in the quality of the meat. If the fish is bled properly & swam and taken care of with ice this prevents a burnt core,” a knowledgable Reddit user wrote.

This is pretty spot on. Once the Wicked Tuna anglers reel in a bluefin, they have to complete a pretty extensive process to be sure that the meat is in top condition once they bring it back to the buyers. Bluefin tuna prices waver dramatically depending on the quality of the meat, so every step they take upon pulling the fish in is crucial. Essentially, direct contact with the ice can affect the color of the fish’s skin and meat and cause freezer burn. The rice paper helps keep the fish cold without ruining the meat.

Here’s a Wicked Tuna cast member’s explanation of the significance of rice paper.

How ‘Wicked Tuna’ Stars Prevent Fish From ‘Burning’

As any carnivorous Wicked Tuna fan knows, freezer burn kills the quality of the meat and flavor. All of those succulent juices evaporate, leaving you with a dry fish that tastes like the bottom of your icebox. Gross.

But freezer burn isn’t the only way tuna meat can deteriorate before reaching the pier. In fact, there’s a strict order of operations that anglers follow to ensure the meat is top-notch from the moment it hits the floor of the boat.

As the Reddit responder alluded to in his answer about Wicked Tuna, the anglers have to “bleed” the fish before actually pulling it onboard. This means that they have to take a gaff hook and puncture the tuna’s face or tail so that it bleeds out without stress. Then, once on the boat, the crew has to spike the fish’s brain, degut it and insert a rod down its spine in that exact order. This is all to cease all movement and keep the fish as tender as possible before finally wrapping it in rice paper and placing it on ice.

It might sound like overkill, but every step is necessary. After all, when good tuna goes for $20 a pound, who wouldn’t take every step possible to make sure the fish stays fresh?