Giovanni “John” Pennisi was born in Monterey, California, on July 20, 1963, to Giuseppe and Elaine Pennisi. He was named after his Nonno, Giovanni Pennisi, who came to California as a fisherman at the turn of the century from the Province of Catania, Sicily. Giovanni attended local schools and graduated from Monterey High School in 1981.
As a third-generation fisherman in Monterey, Giovanni went on his first fishing trip with his father on his father’s boat San Giovanni on his seventh birthday. He begged his father to go sooner, but his father made him wait until he was seven years old. On his seventh birthday the weather was bad, so his father didn’t want to take him. Giovanni was determined to go fishing and cried and reminded his father of his promise. So Giuseppe decided to take him, despite the bad weather, and Giovanni has been fishing ever since. When Giovanni was 16 years old his father let him take over as skipper of one of his father’s fishing boats, the 64-foot San Giovanni II. With his younger brother’s, Giuseppe “Joey”(15) and Mario (14) as his crew they fished the boat every summer, on weekends, and on all school breaks bringing in their catch to their father’s company Royal Seafoods.
Giovanni still in high school loved fishing and wanted to quit school and fish full time. Unbeknownst to his father, Giovanni began skipping school. Mr. Hoffman, Giovanni’s Monterey High School teacher, went down to the wharf to the Royal Seafood Fish Market to find Giovanni. He met Giuseppe for the first time and reported to Giuseppe that Giovanni had been skipping school. Giuseppe put his foot down and demanded Giovanni stay in school until after he graduated from high school or else Giuseppe would not let him fish. Giovanni knew his father meant business and stayed in school till after graduation. After graduation Giovanni began fishing full time and never looked back.
Giuseppe valued hard work and passed on his work ethic and many pearls of wisdom to Giovanni. Stick and stay and make it pay. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. Perseverance...You’ve got to be strong when you’re facing a storm. Life is a challenge that’s got to be met; those that do, leave no regret. Giovanni carries these words of wisdom with him to this day.
At 21 Giovanni and his brothers purchased their own boat, the Almighty, in Seattle Washington. While working on their boat at a dry dock in Seattle, they were contacted by a joint venture company that worked with the United States and Russia. They were asked if they were interested in taking part in Americanizing the Bering Sea Trawl Fisheries. Up until that time the Bering Sea had only been fished by foreign trawl fleets. Giovanni and his brothers, including his brother David who was known as Rowdy, trawl fished out of Dutch Harbor, Akutan and Kodiak, Alaska. They were part of the first group of 20 American trawlers to fish the Bering Sea for the first time, as American processing plants were established along the Aleutian Islands. They fished the winters starting on Jan 1st through June in the Alaskan waters and then returned to Monterey Bay to fish locally for the rest of the year unloading their catch at Royal Seafoods.
In 1991, south-east of St. Matthews Island in the Northern part of the Bering Sea, the Almighty went down. Giovanni and his brothers were rescued from the water by the very boat that they had rescued six months earlier when they responded to a Coast Guard assist call.
After the Almighty, Giovanni and his brothers purchased the fishing boat Irene’s Way and continued fishing the coastal waters of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. As Giovanni’s young family grew he wanted to be closer to home, so in the fall of 1993 he brought the Irene’s Way home to Monterey and continued fishing locally. Giovanni is a past member of the Alaska Draggers Association and is currently on the advisory panel for a west coast fisherman’s trawlers association.
Giovanni is also working with his family and the Monterey community to help preserve and support our local sustainable fishing industry for future generations. Giovanni is honored to be a part of a family that has helped form Monterey’s fishing heritage. Giovanni credits his father, Giuseppe, for his patience and willingness to pass his fishing expertise and mariner skills onto his family, especially his trawl gear knowledge. Giuseppe gave his children opportunities to fish at a very young age.
All the brothers still fish, Giovanni “John”, Giuseppe “Joey”, Mario and Marco. They fish from Monterey Bay to San Francisco. Brother Mario and his son Giuseppe “Jojo” and John’s two boys, Giuseppe and Giovanni, fish the summer salmon runs in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Marco jumps on the boats in between constructions jobs and Gino now runs the family fish market, Royal Seafoods. Brother David “Rowdy” was lost at sea fishing in 2004.
Giovanni is the proud father of four children: Catharina, Giuseppe, Giovanni and Adelia; and is the very proud Nonno to Ava Pennisi. Giovanni would like to thank the Santa Rosalia Festa Italia for giving him the privilege to be the 2018 Grand Marshall.