Brixham Trawl Makers on the move

Serving Westcountry beam trawlers, and with further development into making stern trawls, Brixham Trawl Makers Ltd (BTM) moved into a new depot at the Northfields Industrial Estate, Brixham, in January.

Run by the firm’s owner, Darren Edwards, BTM is also engaged in fisheries research work and took part in the CEFAS ‘Project 50%’ study on beam trawl discards. BTM also works on Seafish trials to save fuel using square-net beam trawls.

Darren has been part of the Brixham fishing industry for over 25 years. He said: “I first went to work at sea at about 14 years old, left school at 15 and worked on beam trawlers for 11 years.

“However, when the oil prices soared and wages dropped, I came ashore and helped out at a net riggers, which supplied Dave Becconsall’s boats. The net rigger Colin Kendricks wanted to retire, so I began full time at Becconsalls until 2005, when I moved to trawler owners Landgon & Phillips, and remained there as their net rigger for 12 years. In those 12 years, I created BTM.

“Over the years since I left school, I have worked on trawling gear for the majority of that time. Now that Waterdance – as vessel owners – are big players, I help their rigger Alan Porter, who looks after four of the firm’s nine beamers, while I look after the remaining five, so it works quite well. We are always busy at BTM.”

Brixham Trawl Makers serves a growing number of beamers at other ports too, and currently supplies flip-up assemblies for W Stevenson & Son. The same gear is supplied to Stephen Nowell’s fleet, and to the Newlyn beamer Sapphire, owned by Mike Corin.

Darren Edwards added, “Up the east coat we supply most of the beamers there, and we are now branching out into rigging a greater range of nets for stern trawling, and for several years have supplied gear to the CEFAS research trawler, Endeavour.”

Comparing the new design of square beam trawl, featuring a full-width bosom to help reduce seabed impact and decrease unwanted by-catch of benthic species, alongside a conventional beam trawl in the flume tank at Hirtshals, Denmark.

Darren Edwards with a model of the square-net beam gear that was under trial on the beamer, Barentszee. In 2016, Darren was the joint winner of the Fishing News ‘Technical Innovation Award’ for his work on developing this.

To begin his training in the manufacture and maintenance of trawl nets, Darren Edwards’ son Toby will join the firm in six weeks’ time.

“I believe that fishing is a good industry to be part of. I can’t see the industry dwindling, probably the opposite; we seem to be in one of the best times yet for sustainable trawling,” Darren said.

“Having to bring-in materials (to BTM) I saw the opportunity of starting a small chandlery and now hold quite a lot of stock. I also keep scallop gear for Deeside Marine Ltd and supply that to a few boats as far west as Falmouth. We are also an agent for Ijmuiden Stores and supply its warps.

“I have seen many changes in the design of beam trawls over the years, particularly the advances from trials such as ‘Project 50%’.

“Funded by DEFRA, and co-ordinated by CEFAS, 11 beamers took part in testing selective nets to reduce discards. I was closely involved with Project 50%, and although it hasn’t been made public, the skippers involved have stayed with those configurations of net, which did provide a 50% reduction in discards. They haven’t gone back to old traditional rigs and mesh sizes.

“The results of Project 50% have set a new trend in beam trawling, and from that we now supply cod ends at 106mm mesh (100mm allowing for shrinkage), against the legal requirement which is 80mm. The same applies to the rest of the net; bigger meshes all through – bigger than those that were used 10 years ago. With the new landing obligations coming in, we might see even further development, and perhaps more trials.

“I often work on gear trials with Seafish’ gear technologist Gus Caslake. On the Brixham beamer Barentszee, we looked at the efficiency of using square-net beam trawls, having roller balls instead of discs, so that the footrope goes easily over the seabed rather than being dragged through. We had backing from the South Western FPO to do so, and the results were interesting. The square trawl was good on some ground, but on the harder ground we need further research, but there is potential there. It did save fuel.”

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