A record-breaking figure of £43.6m-worth of fish was auctioned by Brixham Trawler Agents (BTA) at Brixham fishmarket in 2021, reports Phil Lockley.

“For some time now, plans have been in place for the market and its adjoining facilities to be extended. We continue to attract more fish from a wider area – that is also a factor – so we need more space. More fish is coming to Brixham market,” BTA’s managing director Barry Young told Fishing News.

Despite plummeting prices at the onset of the Covid crisis, Brixham market forged ahead, pushing fish prices on both export and home markets back up to their present levels, he said.

Brixham remains the top port in England and Wales, and fish sold on the market is now being sourced from Lowestoft to Newlyn. Although last year’s record is ‘not far short’ of the firm’s target figure of £45m, ‘nothing in fishing is ever certain’, added Barry Young.

“Each year, a clear sign of the total figure of fish being auctioned over that year doesn’t appear until the last two months. At the close of every year, weather becomes a major factor, even for the big boats.

“At the turn of the year, the weather wasn’t always kind, though better than expected. Up until that time, we were seeing weeks where well over £1m-worth of fish was auctioned, which was amazing. We knew that we were on target, but during November and December, when the fishing fleet was hit by gales, the total figure will have been drawn down.”

Together with the team of auctioneers and over 50 shore staff, Barry Young and BTA’s financial director Adam Mudge hope to better last year’s record in 2022.

In June 2020, BTA held its first official electronic web auction – the first of its type installed in Europe. “It is using the electronic auction rather than our original shout auction that played a large part in last year’s figure of £43.6m,” said Barry Young.

Chief auctioneer John Rogers and Barry Young with Brixham’s clock auction, which was introduced in 2020. (Photo: Auxcis)

“Gains from using the clock auction are clear – if we hadn’t have made that change, I don’t know how we would have coped with the problems coming from the Covid lockdown,” Barry Young continued. “We managed to stay open, we still continued to trade, our fishermen still made a wage.

“We set up a BTA team structure so that we would always have something in place were Covid to strike our firm.”

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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