N 50° 24' 31 W 003° 30' 85
Brixham, England’s top fishing port
The Devon port of Brixham has been a centre for fishing for centuries and is credited with being one of the birthplaces of trawling – the other being the Thames estuary. Trawling evolved from the sailing trawlers of the early twentieth century to motor trawling, and today Brixham’s fleet of trawlers consists mainly of Dutch-style beam trawler, as well as smaller stern trawlers that fish for demersal species as well as sprats during the season, scallops and an inshore fleet of netters and potting boats.
A lot has changed at Brixham. In recent years this port has seen a major facelift take place as the quayside and the auction have all been extensively renewed. New quays have been constructed, extending the space available for Brixham’s own fleet as well as for fishing vessels from elsewhere that fish South-West waters on a seasonal basis.
The fleet in Brixham is able to rely on the services of a range of suppliers to the fishing industry, with fishing gear suppliers, engineering companies, ship’s painters, electronics suppliers and transport specialists.
Brixham’s auction is today one of the most modern to be found anywhere in Europe. The halls have been built to the highest hygiene and temperature control standards, and are a far cry from the traditional auctions of the past.
The fleet landing in Brixham lands a very wide variety of demersal species, ranging from cuttlefish and squid to the high-value monkfish, turbot and sole landed by the beamer fleet. The auction attracts buyers from over a very wide area who are there to bid for top-quality fish that finds its way to processors, wholesalers, fish merchants and restaurants. The auction also attracts landings from other parts of southern England, as Brixham with its easy transport links and its wide base of buyers is a popular place to sell.
Brixham is also home to a number of fish merchants and processors, as well as seafood outlets that are normally packed during the summer months when this becomes a busy tourist destination.
There are a couple of highlights of the year in Brixham, with the trawler race taking place in June. This is traditionally the quietest time of year for fishing, so much of the fleet ties up for its annual refits, as well as for the race that takes participating boats twice around Torbay before returning to port for prizes to be awarded for each class of vessel, and the party that goes on well into the night.
Proceeds from the Brixham trawler race go the Mission to Fishermen, as do the proceeds of the annual Fishstock festival held every September. During this one-day event, the auction halls and quaysides are taken up with a couple of stages for music performances, presentations by top chefs and a variety of seafood stalls that celebrate the seafood of the South-West of England.