Natural Gift. Those words struck a chord with Ian Bryce many years ago when he was admiring the shipwrights building trollers in Prince Rupert. The words resonated and eventually became the family-owned Natural Gift Seafoods. He explains, “It’s truly a gift from nature to feel deeply enough about what you’re doing to be successful at it… what’s on the surface tells a story about what’s underneath.” His two fishing vessels NERKA#1 and NATURAL GIFT, have been in the commercial fishing industry for 50 years and are currently skippered by his two sons, Kingsley and Alistair.
Ian is proud of both his fish and the high standards the fishery holds them to as one of the greenest and cleanest in the world — certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. About 15 years ago, surprised that little North Pacific Albacore Tuna was available locally, they began to focus mainly on premium hookand-line troll-caught tuna and lingcod. Their fish have been recognized as ‘Sustainable’ by the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise and ‘Best Choice’ by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Programs. Ian has been harvesting the bounty of the west coast from Oregon to Alaska for over 17 years with hard work and satisfying growth. His vessels spend at least 6 months of every year on the ocean where a combination of technology and the necessary ‘natural gift’ of fishermen must merge to sense the world below.
Natural Gift Seafoods produce meals for half a million people annually yet sometimes there is a sense that they are being lumped in with pirates and drag-netters. Transparency and sustainable practices are priorities. As awareness of supply chain fragility and the importance of supporting community food systems grow, they are also focusing on streamlining distribution channels and sourcing biodegradable packaging.
When asked about the future Ian responds, “We are ready to pass along a well-run business to our boys. The Seafood Business Accelerator (SBA) offered by the Centre for Seafood Innovation at Vancouver Island University, is helping us to face certain weaknesses and direct our energy towards true priorities.” He is connecting with other small-scale harvesters facing their own challenges and has an opportunity to share knowledge and reach out to those at more initial stages of growth. “We recognize some of their struggles,” he explains.
The SBA has given Ian a chance to sit back and look at the business as a whole. Confident that he has ‘the big stuff’ working he will use the program to work on creating a solid playbook, accounting strategies and an updated, informative website. “We direct our marketing efforts locally, sell directly to restaurants and feed people good food.”
This article was written by Josephine Olivier and published in the Seafood Business Accelerator Celebrating Spring 2023 Graduates Booklet.
Island Coastal Economic Trust is honoured to have been working in close partnership with the Centre for Seafood Innovation project on the Seafood Business Accelerator program valued at over $186,000. The Trust contributed $60,000 to the overall budget.