With food provenance being more important than ever to restaurants and shoppers, Brixham’s fish is becoming an internationally recognised product.
At the end of the eighteenth century the fishing industry in Brixham boomed when the method of catching fish by trawling along the sea-bed with a weighted net was successfully introduced and developed. It was deep-sea fishing that developed the Harbour area in
the nineteenth century and by mid century, the Brixham trawling fleet was the largest in England. Before World War 1, nearly 300
sailing trawlers were based in Brixham.
Today, Brixham is the most important fishing port in England and Wales when measured by the value of catch landed. The Harbour provides areas for the safe and efficient management of the fishing industry. This includes the provision of fish landing facilities and a fish market for the conduct of fish auctions, for which the Harbour Authority is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance.
The history of Brixham goes back over 1000 years and its role as a fishing port is mentioned in the Domesday Book. By medieval
times the port had strong trade in drying fish and curing pilchards, which has been recorded as taking place in 1500.
The arrival of the local railway system led to Brixham having a record number of registered fishing vessels just prior to World War
I. This later declined because of competition from North Sea ports, resulting in the fleet being reduced to just seven by 1930. Despite considerable changes and pressure on the fishing industry, Brixham now ranks as one of the most significant in the country. Members of the fleet have been responsible for the introduction of innovative equipment and techniques that considerably reduce by-catch, leading to less undersized fish being caught and offering greater protection to the sea bed.
This reflects the high quality of the deep sea fish caught in the Western Approaches, including lemon sole, turbot and plaice together with the valuable contribution now made by non-quota species such as cuttle fish and scallops.
This has inspired a complete redevelopment and improvement of Brixham’s commercial harbour frontage, featuring a larger fish market, with a new chill store, grading, display and despatch areas. The existing fish market building has been refurbished as part of the project, along with the construction of a new harbour office, new business offices, storage and processing units.
Tours of the facilities are available that highlight its importance to the local community and wider food community.