Barentszee works a crew of eight, with the wheelhouse team working two trips at sea an done ashore, while the deck crew work a three to one routine. They fish for a variety of groundfish species that are landed in Brixham, and Barentszee’s crew concentrate on short tows to maximise quality, and short trips to ensure that fish reaches the auction as fresh as possible. Skipper Shaun Gibbs and his crew were central to the 50% project that was run some years ago in Brixham with CEFAS to minimise by-catches of undersized fish, with the experimental gear trialled extensively on board Barentszee to optimise mesh sizes, testing the trial gear on one side against standard gear the other. This involved fitting larger mesh sizes to the front sections and bellies of trawls to minimise by-catches of benthos and juvenile fish, and the project was highly successful, with the whole Brixham fleet following Barentszee’s lead on this.
At larger end of the fleet at 30 metres long with a 7.80 metre beam, Barentszee’s engine power is similar to that of the company’s other vessels, and this combination makes for a very comfortable and safe vessel. It was built in Belgium in 1984 and fished from Zeebrugge before joining the UK fleet. Barentszee is one of the stalwarts of the Brixham fleet, and it has been refitted and re-engined several times to keep in up to standard. Over the years its ownership has changed at intervals, and many of Brixham’s skippers cut their teeth as crew on the Barentszee over the years.
Today the trawler’s skipper is Shaun Gibbs, who has been in command for the last eleven years.Shaun started fishing, scalloping and beaming on his father’s boat, Haringvliet, another Brixham byword for successful fishing. ‘I left school at fifteen and fishing was all I ever wanted to do. So I’ve always been fishing, and always from Brixham,’ he said. After sailing on a number of trawlers and having sat for his tickets, he found himself working for Langdon and Philip when they bought Barentszee.
‘I like to focus on quality instead of quantity, and I like to work banky ground for a good mix of fish. We do four days, land the fish and then another four days – and the crew hate my short tows. an hour or an hour and a half. It maintains the quality and if there’s anything small in the trawl, then it gets a chance of survival. Then it’s good when the cuttlefish start. Other fish disappear when the cuttle fish are around. They are there, but not in their usual spots, and when we’re concentrating on cuttles, the other fish species get a rest.’
One of Brixham’s most experienced and successful skippers, Shaun Gibbs says the future looks good for fishing, with healthy stocks and a well-maintained boat to work. ‘I’ve been fishing since I was fifteen and it’s still just as exciting as it was back then. Of course there are the odd times when it’s been blowing hard for weeks and weeks, but I still love it and it’s still a challenge.’