If you ever get a chance to go to Brixham fish market I would highly recommend it. Last week Mark Lobb from ‘Wild Food Devon’ took me along to see the market on a busy morning. It was an earlier than usual start, as I crawled out of bed at 0430 to head to Brixham! The auction started at 0600 so we had a little time to have a look around before proceedings began.
Brixham Fish Market is one of the most important fishing markets in the UK with over 100 boats landing their catch there every week, and with that in mind I had thought I was going to blown away by the amount of fish there… But in actual fact I was surprised by how little I saw. Over fishing perhaps? Or time of year? Day of the week?
What did catch my eye was the difference between the fish caught on large trawlers to the small day boats, some of the larger trawlers are out at sea for 4 days at a time and although they can store the fish in their holds some of the fish can get frozen and bruised. Also when it arrives at the market it can already be 4 days old. The day boats on the other hand are in and out daily, and as long as the crews have stored the fish correctly you can get a far better product.
Mark knew exactly what he was looking for and the prices he wanted to pay. "I only buy from Day boats and over the many years I have been coming here have got to know exactly what to look for in quality" explains Mark. He has to be sharp to get the fish he wants at a price he can make a profit on. This can be tricky on some days if demand is high and supply is low.
There were some serious fish merchants at the market, a slight twitch of the nose or nod of the head and the fish was bought. The merchants really know how to work the auctions, pushing prices up one day and then down the next. It’s a fine art that unless you know what you are doing you could really lose out. On the day that I was at the market I saw Lemon Sole being sold for over £13.00 per kilo and £11.00 per kilo for exactly the same grade (Size) fish…
At the end of the summer Brixham Market becomes digital, what this means is that the bidding will take place online by the fish merchants and then collected from the market after the online auction has taken place. So the tradition that has taken place for hundreds of years could soon be lost.
The biggest concerns for small businesses like Mark’s is the quality of the produce, Mark prides himself in getting the best quality freshest fish and if he can’t see the fish before he bids for it, then he may not get the quality he's after. “I can see many small business not keeping up with the technology” explains Mark, “poor quality and high prices will see a lot of fishmongers go out of business if they aren’t savvy”.
It will take time for the market to settle into the new ways of trading and I am looking forward to going back next year to see how they are getting on.
Why not add fresh fish to this weeks order - Wild Food Devon