Triad Fisheries committed to producing “highest-quality wild salmon on earth”
Over four decades ago, Sitka, Alaska, U.S.A.-based Triad Fisheries’ founder Bruce Gore decided that he was unhappy with the quality of salmon coming out of the state's now-famed Bristol Bay.
A fisherman by trade, Gore had gillnetted and seined in Alaska for salmon, and decided that the methods weren’t yielding a high enough quality of fish. So, current Triad Fisheries co-owner Mark Tupper told SeafoodSource during the 2022 Seafood Expo Global in Barcelona, Spain, he decided to try out a new method of catching and processing salmon.
“He bought an ice-troll boat, and was out hook-and-line fishing with his boat and icing the fish,” Tupper said. “Bruce would use a little plastic spatula to get all the blood out of the fish, and get this really beautiful, pristine fish. He made it mandatory on himself to deliver every three days to the dock.”
The result was a higher-quality fish that he took pride in, but it still took a few more steps before Triad Fisheries was truly born. The catalyst was a day when Gore made a delivery to a dock in Sitka, and another boat that had been at sea for over a week came in right after his.
“The next boat came in and they started putting this fish on top of Bruce’s and he said ‘Stop, stop!’” Tupper said. “He said, ‘That’s all really bad fish! Don’t put that with my fish!’ And the buyer said, ‘Bruce, don’t worry about it, you’re going to get paid the same thing that the other guy is getting paid.’”
That didn’t deter Gore from his mission of delivering high-quality salmon. He took a cue from the tuna industry, which at the time had recently begun freezing tuna at super-cold temperatures to preserve its quality, which he thought could work with salmon.
“Bruce went out and he built a boat called the Triad,” Tupper said. “It was a triad in that it was Bruce, his wife, Kathy, and the boat.”
The new boat, equipped with modern freezing technology, produced extremely high-quality salmon, which led to another serendipitous moment for his fledgling company.
Famous T.V. celebrity chef Julia Child – so the story goes – had traveled to Seattle to do a show specifically on salmon, and was looking for high-quality salmon to use. Various people pointed her in Gore’s direction, and so she tried one of his products – specifically, a coho salmon.
“She said, 'It’s absolutely fabulous.' She was living in La Jolla, California at that point, and when she got back, she said, ‘You know what, Bruce? Send me 500 pounds of coho,’” Tupper said.
Child then did an entire special on preparing the salmon, and mentioned Gore and his fishing method by name in her French Chef series. The name-drop was a rare moment for Child, who famously never endorsed products, to the point that, in 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported just the use of her name was the center of a legal battle several years after her death.
“It was the only product she ever called out by name in the entire history of her television career,” Tupper said, who has found the video evidence to back up the claim.
That mention by a famous chef was a massive boost to Gore's business, and soon demand outstripped supply.
“So Bruce started getting other boats and training other boats how to do this,” Tupper said.
Fast forward to roughly 2007, and Gore, ready to retire, sold his business to Mark and Beth Tupper. With the sale came relationships with the fishing boats that Mark Tupper said he continues to uphold, along with the standards established by Gore back in 1978.
Ensuring the quality of the salmon he sells is still the paramount factor in what Triad Fisheries does, Tupper said. During shows like Seafood Expo Global, Tupper said the company intentionally allows its frozen products to thaw to prove that they are real and not plastic replicas.
Traceability, Tupper said, has also always been a core value for Triad Fisheries – largely to ensure the quality of every fish it sells.
“We’re the leader in tagging fish,” Tupper said. “When Bruce started getting other boats involved, he wanted to make sure that everybody was honoring the methodology.”
As a result, the company developed a tagging system for its fish, so if a customer had a problem with a product, Triad could trace it back to the origin and figure out what went wrong.
Today, the company still sells sashimi-grade salmon in a headed and gutted format to both retailers and foodservice operations. Currently, 70 percent of the company’s market is in the U.S., Tupper said, but Spain has become a growing market for the company, thanks to the efforts of Raimon Moreu Soler, who imports the fish with his business, Wild Alaska Salmon.
“I sell mainly to restauants, but also to retailers, and because of the high quality of Triad Fisheries, it’s a perfect fish to be refreshed and sold to retailers,” Soler said.
Soler said he is completely confident in the quality of the fish, and that anyone who tries it will acknowledge its place in the market.
“I know that once they try the fish, maybe they cannot buy it because of the price, but they will all love the quality,” he said.
Photo by Chris Chase/SeafoodSource