Share a day in the working life of a Brixham under-10m skipper and direct sales success story…

“I’m just getting the boat ready for the pirate festival,” Tristan Northway told Fishing News.

Over the May bank holiday Brixham is overrun by ‘pirates’, in town for the annual festival. For Tristan, the event also presents the opportunity for some self- promotion – a tactic that over the past couple of years has brought him much success, and a loyal social media following.

“It all started during the Covid pandemic,” explained Brixham-born Tristan, who has been fishing for the best part of 25 years. “Market prices slumped more than 70% overnight. I thought: ‘I’m not going out there for 70% less’ – so I put up a Facebook post saying: ‘You can buy fish directly off the boat tomorrow when I get in’ – and that’s when it took off.”

Tristan quickly realised that Facebook allowed him to reach potential customers directly, and through the platform’s livestream function he has been able to openly engage with that audience – from streaming a live haul, to showcasing the virtues of lesser-known species.

“I put myself in my customers’ shoes, and I wanted them to appreciate the amount of hard work that not just goes into the running of the boat, but catching the fish to put on their table. I thought: ‘Hang on a minute, there isn’t anything showing where the fish comes from, who’s caught it, where it’s caught and how it’s caught,” he said.

Now with more than 56,000 followers on Facebook, his open- minded approach to embracing new media, and markets, has seen his 8.5m stern trawler Adela BM 79 become recognised as not just a vessel, but also a brand.

Tristan Northway engaging with his social media following. “I did a haul live the other day, and there was more than 600 people watching. There’s no fakery involved – they see it exactly how it is. I was out the other day and hardly caught any fish, but it’s showing my audience the reality of me doing my job – some days it’s good, some days it’s poor.”

Tristan’s ability to demonstrate both provenance and freshness is also seeing results, with his fish becoming sought-after across the country. “My customers are literally the second people to come into contact with my fish. Not only that, they’ve also watched it all live – they’ve seen it come aboard the boat, along with all the troubles and tribulations, the snags, the rubbish weather – it’s all documented on my Facebook page. And people love that.”

Engaging with his social media following has now become an integral part of Tristan’s day. “I usually put a post up on Facebook letting people know what day I’m going out, and invite them to tune in to the live haul to watch the fish come aboard,” he said.

Orders are then placed online for mixed bags of fish, which allows Tristan to ascertain his costs, and potential profit, before going to sea.

“Once I know I’ve got the orders, I make that right to be able to know that I’m covering costs for the fuel in the boat, the fuel in my van, and my other expenses,” he said.

With the numbers crunched, and an audience awaiting, Tristan heads down to the Adela before daylight. His first task of the day is to switch on his mobile phone and ‘go live’ – which enables him to broadcast from the deck of the vessel.

“People can watch exactly what happens on that day, so I do all my normal things, put the kettle on, start the boat up, get ready for the day.

“I then make my way out to where I’m going to shoot my gear, usually just as it’s getting light. Then I turn the camera round, and I show everybody exactly what I do to shoot my gear – the whole process.

“I try to answer any questions that are being asked while I’m shooting the gear. Once the gear is all set, I switch off from going live and then do all my standard engine checks – basically everything I would do on a normal fishing day.”

Tristan ‘goes live’ again just before hauling. “They watch the whole process of the gear coming back up to the boat. Usually by that time a few hundred more people have switched on. I then document the whole bag coming onboard the boat.

“I tell them what’s in the bag, and describe every species of fish that drops out. I show them what fish I’m allowed to catch, and those I’m not allowed to keep. So they witness me returning fish I’m not allowed to keep back into the water.

“I then switch off the live, sort through all the fish to make sure I’ve got enough, start washing the deck down, and then steam back in.”

Once back at the mooring, Tristan sorts the fish into orders before transferring them to his van – all of which continues to be broadcast live to his followers, some of whom, from as far north as the West Midlands, will be awaiting Tristan’s arrival.

Tristan’s final task is to deliver his fish, sometimes travelling as far north as Stoke-on-Trent. “I try to get the fish delivered in under 24 hours – sometimes it’s even under 12 hours. Customers have witnessed the whole journey of where that fish has come from, who has caught it, and how
it’s caught, and then it’s on the doorstep literally the next day.”

“To be able to promote myself, and the fish I catch, and deliver it myself, to places as far afield as Stoke-on-Trent, where people have watched me via Facebook and thought: ‘Wow, I want some of that fish’, has been a massive achievement for me.”

With Brixham Pirate Festival just a few weeks away, Tristan will be hoping that his innovative methods will make it another weekend to treasure.

NEXT WEEK: Share a day in the life of @Girlyfishmonger Emma McKeating

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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