A seafood man in the land of beef and oil makes a name for himself
Growing up in the Victoria area, Rob Tryon undoubtedly has fisherman’s blood. Whether it’s cracking a salty joke or chatting about his dad’s fishing boat, “Effing Rob” loves fish.
After taking the Fisheries and Aquaculture program at Vancouver Island University, he worked over a decade in a family business of shellfish farming. They grew Effingham oysters in the Effingham inlet of Vancouver Island, the namesake of his company.
Now the owner of Effing Seafoods, a supplier that opened its doors nearly two years ago, Tryon knows his particular seafood and word choices. The supplier is most known for bringing fish from New Zealand, Iceland, Hawaii and B.C. to Edmonton farmers’ markets around the city.
Tryon cares deeply about where his fish comes from and the fishing practices that are used. But, he is very hesitant to use buzzwords like, “ethically fished” and “sustainably caught,” that are still highly subjective.
“What does that mean? Where have you heard these words?” he says. “We are in the land of Oceanwise, we’re in the land of Seafood Watch, SeaChoice; they all have great bits and pieces to them, but personally, I don’t subscribe to them completely.”
With his background, he’s confident he knows what practices are respectable and sustainable, which he says is all that really matters for amateur and professional chefs looking to buy quality fish.
“There are certain fisheries that get targeted with a lot of negative attention,” he says. “There’s parts of them that I can get behind and I’ll source fish from those parts of those fisheries where they’ve been fishing in the same areas for 40 years, and these fish keep coming back year after year after year.”
Tryon calls his principles traceability.
“I can give you the boat name and the fisherman name for most of the products that I offer.”
The quality of his seafood comes down to grade and preservatives. But, the logistics don’t end at picking out the right fishing boats and people landing the seafood.
Half the job for Tryon and his staff is educating the public in a landlocked province like Alberta.
“The term landlocked, for some reason because I hear it so often, really bothers me,” he says. “There’s no excuse that we can’t have fish that’s maybe only about 24 hours older than people in Vancouver. People often ask me, ‘Is your fish fishy?’ and I look at them offended, and I’m like, ‘No—where are you buying your fish? If you’re eating fishy fish, you’re eating the wrong fish.’”
Tryon’s fish come from the coast to the market in a window of roughly 48 to 72 hours.
He says he often gets asked for king crab, to which he responds, “Go to Costco.” He says a “commodity fish” like king crab isn’t worth selling because big suppliers can easily buy it in bulk from a massive production plant and offer it at a better price.
He learned very quickly that for his business model to work, he had to carve a niche in the city—Tryon’s niche is commodity fish.
He focuses on educating Albertans about unique fish and seafood products that may not be found at your run-of-the-mill grocery store. Effing often brings in rarities like barracuda, hebi, ono, monkfish or john dory to encourage customers to trust him and try something new.
A new plan Effing Seafoods has in the works is a delivery service offering fresh and frozen fish monthly to your door. One of the reasons he decided to create the service was the preferences of consumers he begin to see at markets across the city. He finds that many people are curious about new seafood and where it’s coming from, but don’t always know where to buy it and what to buy.
Tryon plans to partner with other market vendors for the delivery service to supply all those farmers’ market items to Edmontonians year round. He already partners with chef Cory at Tzin Wine & Tapas, who makes surf n’ turf salmon sausages with Tryon’s wild sockeye salmon.
He plans to build these partnerships with the goal of rounding out the baskets his delivery service will soon offer.