Share a day in the working life of a Brixham-based gear maestro

Family, friendship, fishing and the sea are very much intertwined for Darren ‘Edd’ Edwards, founder of Brixham Trawl Makers, with each playing a pivotal role in the development of his career.

“My family has been in the industry since the late 1800s. My great-great-grandfather owned a smack, which his son then worked,” Edd told Fishing News.

“My grandfather was a fishmonger. I used to go on the markets with him, where he would buy the fish and then take it back to be filleted and ‘fishmongered’ – and from there I started working on the quay.

“I first went to sea on a beam trawler when I was 14. That was in the school holidays. I then progressed from there, doing work experience with a net- maker and learning how to do bits of gear.”

After leaving school, completing a Youth Training Scheme fishing course and getting his tickets, Edd joined his first vessel.

“I spent four years on the Maraverma, and ended up doing 11 and a half years in total at sea on beam trawlers.”

Following the fishing came family – and a change in direction. “I came ashore when my kids were born, and ended up working in a chandlery in Brixham.

“I went there to work behind the counter, which wasn’t really my thing, but I managed to sneak upstairs to where the net-maker was. He asked if I could stay up with him, and that’s where I started learning about the trade.”

After developing his skills and knowledge, Edd was offered a position at Langdon and Philip, which at the time owned five of the big beam trawlers in Brixham. He stayed with the company for 12 years, before starting out on his own following the sale of Langdon and Philip to Waterdance Ltd.

Edd’s son Toby, seen here rigging a headline, joined Brixham Trawl Makers at the age of 16. As well as providing bespoke solutions and designing all types of equipment and gear, the business works closely with government agencies and scientists. Edd’s expertise has also been required overseas, and in 2018 the company was invited by the Thai government to talk about sustainable fishing methods.

“I started Brixham Trawl Makers in 2013. I’ve gone from renting a store to now owning my own store, and from just me, to my son Toby joining at 16, to now five of us.

“I think we now do all the gear for all the beamers in Brixham. We do 25% to 30% of the day-hauler trawls in Brixham, and also boats from here all the way down to Newlyn,” he said.

“Being a chandlery, we not only make the gear, we also sell the products as well for them to make themselves.”

As in so many roles in this industry, Edd doesn’t have a typical day. “My day can start anywhere from 6am depending on how busy it is, and finish at eight or nine in the evening,” he said.

The first tasks of the day are desk-based, with time spent ordering supplies, checking stocks, pricing jobs and tackling many other administrative tasks.

After that, Edd says he gets involved in ‘pretty much everything that’s happening’, including overseeing the trawl- making processes onsite, or jumping in the van to visit vessels in need of gear repairs, or skippers wanting advice.

Edd describes the recently built gantry as ‘a big asset to the company’. “We have lots of orders from fishermen who want gear ready to shoot. From my experience of being at sea, and what I’ve learnt over the years, we can start from scratch and build everything. Obviously certain bits, like the beams, are made for us, but we’ll put it all together.”

“It’s a full-on day – it’s 100% teamwork and organisation. Everyone does their share. It’s 24/7 – especially in the fishing industry. You can have a WhatsApp message, a phone call or an email any time of the day.”

Brixham Trawl Makers has also been recognised for its continued efforts to promote sustainability, and played a key role in the successful ‘50%’ project that aimed to reduce discards by at least half.

The company has also seen success at the Fishing News Awards, being named joint winner in the Technical Innovation of the Year category in 2015, and being highly commended in the Sustainability category in 2019.

On the day we spoke, Edd’s team had been to the quay in Brixham to recover worn wires from a vessel, which are then sent to the Netherlands to be recycled. The team then replaces the worn wires with new, ready for another 12 months’ action.

Edd is also keen to embrace new methods, all of which keep him and his team busy. “We worked with Waterdance
on the Sumwing trawls on the Margaret of Ladram last year. We redesigned the open-gear trawls for a much more maintainable trawl, to reduce downtime and increase fishing time. We’ve got a project this year with the Sumwing on the stone mat trawls – so that’s something new.”

As the end of the day approaches, Edd returns to his desk for more paperwork. Despite the long hours, and the challenges of being a business owner, he says he loves doing what he does.

“This job is the closest I can be to being at sea, but not being at sea. It’s something that runs through my family’s blood.

“A lot of my friends are still out there fishing, and by doing this job I can keep in touch with them without having to go to sea. I’m still very close to them, and still very close to the industry,” he said.

“Being close to my family, my friends and the sea are things I’ve always been passionate about.”

Next week: Share a day in the life of Dunbar skipper and 2022 Fishing News Awards Young Fisherman of the Year Rowan Davies.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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