In 1936, Dan McEachern, a young man originally from Saskatchewan with a wife and 11 children, began fishing for salmon on the Fraser River. Four generations later the McEachern family is still fishing and reigning over a salmon dynasty built on quality and tradition.
The family has been operating Bruce's Country Market since McEachern’s son Bruce established it in 1948. Sea Fresh Fish Ltd. is their family-owned fishing and processing company. Their fishing boats catch wild sockeye and Chinook salmon for their market and wholesale business.
In an industry known for its booms and busts, the family-run company has weathered its share of economic and fisheries crises that have sunk much bigger businesses.
“I don’t know what our secret is,” says Aaron Murray, the grandson of Bruce McEachern. “Everyone gets along and we are all committed to the family.” He says that being vertically integrated, from harvesting to processing and retail, has helped to stabilize the business during the bad years when few salmon return to the Fraser River.
The McEacherns have also grown their business slowly over the years. Nowadays Sea Fresh Fish Ltd. has 10 gillnet fishing vessels and a small packer vessel mostly captained by family members.
“Salmon has been our game for a long time,” says Murray, “and we’ve built up a large smoked salmon business.”
One of their most popular products is Sea Fresh Fish’s double-smoked sockeye salmon sticks. Their secret recipe is simple: the ingredients. “Good fish in is good fish out,” Murray says.
While waiting aboard his gillnetter for a sockeye fishery opening in Barkley Sound on Vancouver Island, Murray told ThisFish that “old-timers” used to say that Fraser River sockeye was better than sockeye from Barkley Sound. Typically, Barkley sockeye are smaller and have less oil. However, Murray says, the quality of Barkley sockeye has improved in the past few years because of how the fishery is managed. Fishermen are harvesting the sockeye earlier in the year when they have higher oil content.
Their family business first got involved with traceable fish when they ran a halibut special at Bruce’s Country Market. Customers bought whole halibut that were custom cut into fillets and steaks. Murray noticed ThisFish coded tags on the halibut and included the traceable tags in their customers’ halibut orders. "We traced the halibut and saw that it was harvested with a smaller boat, which meant a shorter fishing trip which explained why the fish were so amazingly fresh," he explains.
“ThisFish is an excellent fit for our company because we are going after a discerning customer,” Murray says. “It’s a tool for companies that make a top-notch product that they are proud to stand behind. It’s almost like ThisFish was tailor made for our business.”
Sea Fresh Fish Ltd. currently distributes fresh and smoked products to the following retailers in British Columbia:
- 1 Fish 2 Fish Seafood Market, 20534 Fraser Highway, Langley
- Longliner Seafoods, Granville Island, #102 - 1689 Johnston St., Vancouver
- Whole Foods Markets, four locations, Vancouver
- Fisherman’s Market, Kelowna
- Inlet Seafood, 236 Newport Dr., Port Moody
- Salmon Shop, #123 Carrie Cates Court, North Vancouver
- Superior Fish Market Ltd., 5229A Ladner Trunk Rd., Delta