Brixham 1 Coast and Country Auctions


Brixham 1

Series looking at Britain's most exciting traditional markets and auction houses. The first episode heads to the world-famous Brixham fish auction.


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Transcript


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We may live in a digital age...

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..but a surprising amount of British trade is still done the

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old-fashioned way...

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INDISTINCT BIDDING

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..at traditional auctions.

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Now's your time to get a bargain.

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These sales may feel like throwbacks to a bygone age...

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..but for the buyers and sellers who flock to them,

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they're still the best way to conduct business.

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1,600, blow your nose and bid again.

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We'll be visiting the UK's most dynamic traditional markets...

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..selling everything from pigs to cattle, sheep dogs to ponies...

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..fish to veg.

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And discovering how they are the heartbeat of rural life.

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There'll be bargains to be had today.

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-4.50.

-Best part of being at an auction.

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Today, we're on the stunning south Devon coast,

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home to a world-famous fish market.

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We'll be meeting the auctioneers in the hot seat...

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Lovely fish, isn't it? Best quality on here.

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The sky's the limit for prices.

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If they need something, they'll buy it at a loss if they have to.

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And following the fortunes of three buyers and sellers...

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Since I was probably 12-years-old,

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I've been going down to the auction and trying to make a buck.

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..as they experience all the excitement...

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I've got 8.50. 8.60? 8.60.

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..and tension...

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No, me.

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-7.50?

-He went to 7.50, did he?

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You went to £7.

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..as the hammer falls.

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200.

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We're in Brixham, Devon.

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At the heart of this picturesque fishing town is the world-famous

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Brixham fish market.

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It's been going for well over 100 years,

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but it's now experiencing the biggest boom in its history.

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How much for those?

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£15 for each.

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This fish, here, was probably caught yesterday afternoon.

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They've got a sparkle in their eyes.

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I consider myself extremely lucky that I can buy my fish here.

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It's one of England's biggest fish auctions.

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Around 11,000 tonnes of fish were sold here last year.

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Everything from mullet to mackerel, sea bass to scallops.

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Battling to achieve the best possible price for the fish here are

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auctioneers John Rogers and Todd Crombie.

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Morning, boys.

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Brixham market has gone from

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strength to strength in the last few years.

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It doesn't seem to be easing up.

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If anything, it's getting more

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busier and busier as the years progress.

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Behind Brixham's current boom is a

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huge increase in international trade.

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Last year, we broke all our records and made £30 million worth of fish.

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We're on, you know, to beat all port records again this year.

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Beautiful lobsters.

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We've actually topped the million pound for a week

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and it was all, like, big celebrations and that is,

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but this year, our best ever week is just short of £2 million,

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which is silly money, isn't it? It's Monopoly money, so...

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Yeah, it's been brilliant.

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And it's great news for the whole town as nearly everyone in Brixham

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has some connection to the fishing industry and the market.

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The fishing port really in Brixham, I mean,

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it's a massive amount of people that's employed through here.

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There's a lot of people that depend on the market side, the boat side,

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then you've got the restaurants and all the other fish businesses that

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expand from that.

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John and Todd are on the market floor from 5am every day checking

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-what's for sale.

-Nice crabs.

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They'll make good money today.

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Absolutely love this job.

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I don't suppose there's many people

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who can say they look forward to going to work, but I do.

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I rarely take holidays.

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I'd work all the time if I could.

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And if you can get top price for your fish, you know,

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you're happy with yourself, you know the boat's going to be happy and

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the fishermen are going to be happy, so you can walk into a pub on...

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With your head held high, really, at the end of the day.

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Morning. All right, mate?

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All right, son? You all right?

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It's 6am and today's auction gets under way with the traditional

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ringing of the bell.

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BELL RINGS

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Sales! Sales!

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Right, what would you like for the large plaice, then?

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2.50 on the large plaice.

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Seven and two pieces left.

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£11.

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Warmer autumn weather has meant lots of boats out fishing and there's

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been no market over the weekend, so this Monday morning,

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there's a bumper quantity of fish for sale, over 100 tonnes.

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Supply and demand, and obviously

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there's a lot of supply at the moment,

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with it being quiet weather.

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Everything that floats out, every port's got fish being landed to it,

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including the continent.

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But fish can only command a top price when it's fresh,

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so John and Todd need to sell all of it today.

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I've got 8.50, 8.60?

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To help them get through it all quicker,

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they run two auctions in parallel.

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40, 50, 60... 80, 90. £96?

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11 for that piece?

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£12, one, twos or threes.

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John will sell all the prime, which is the big fish.

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You know, the soles and the monk and, you know, all that side of it.

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£5. £5, 5.10. 5.10, 5.20, 5.30.

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Todd sells all the day boats.

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They're the boats that go out daily.

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A lot of the small buyers prefer that because it's just the small

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pieces for their shops.

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There are 50 buyers registered to bid at Brixham.

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There's various types of buyers.

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Everybody's looking for different things.

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On Todd's side, little shops and stuff,

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they're all looking for, you know,

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that really fresh fish which has only been caught the previous day.

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The bigger buyers are looking for more bulk stuff, really.

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The bigger companies, I mean,

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they will spend up to a good £200,000 to £300,000 a day.

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And you could get your little man with a van

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and his bill might be 20 quid a day.

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Someone who's hoping to get a top price

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for his fish at today's auction

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is trawler fisherman, Alan Scales, skipper of the Ann Marie.

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There's been a lot of fish about all week,

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so a lot of the buyers have got a lot of fish in stock.

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Prices are going to struggle a bit today, I think.

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For the fishermen, like Alan, who supply the market,

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auction day actually begins the evening before.

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Alan and his crew on the Ann Marie are one of 50 small day boats and 23

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larger vessels which call Brixham home.

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I've fished all round the country over the years and landed in

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different places.

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The feeling of when you come back to Brixham is just there,

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there's something that grips you.

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Anyone that's been here will know what I mean.

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I started fishing full-time at 15, 40 years ago now.

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I went down to the harbour as a kid about nine-years-old,

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just wandering around, getting in everyone's way.

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I was interested in absolutely everything about the boats,

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so I knew that that was what my life was going to be.

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He and his crew have arrived back

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into harbour after a full day trip at sea.

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But there's no time to relax, as they need to get their catch

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unloaded and into the market ready for the morning's auction.

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So, this week, we've got approximately 110 boxes of

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cuttlefish and 70, 80 boxes of mixed fish.

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That normally takes us...

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..three quarters of an hour to land, if everything goes OK.

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In total, they've caught just over six tonnes

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of 18 different species of fish.

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It's a buzz when you've had a good landing.

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When you don't have a good landing,

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when you're trying to earn a living for five or six crew,

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it does get you down because you feel so responsible for those crew.

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When it's really, really good,

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then you get a pat on the back from them and everything's good.

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MUSIC PLAYS

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Alan and his crew on the Ann Marie are hoping this catch will net them

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enough to earn a decent wage for their trip.

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They've been seeking out a particular type of fish they hope

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will guarantee them a good price at the auction.

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This time of year, cuttlefish is our main target species.

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Every year is different.

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We can't plan, we just go out,

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reports from other boats that are already out, the general feeling.

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We hunt it down, look for it, and over a period of six or seven days,

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then we sort of pin it down to a particular area.

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Cuttlefish are not actually fish at all

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but molluscs like squid and octopus.

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They're cooked and eaten in a similar way, but unlike squid,

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cuttlefish have a hard internal bone.

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They're particularly abundant in the English Channel in the autumn,

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but they've never been popular on UK plates,

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so the vast majority caught here are exported.

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Cuttlefish mainly goes to the

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European market - Spain, Italy, France.

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But this particular year, the Chinese market has happened,

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so there's been a lot more demand for our cuttlefish,

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so the price has been up a lot better on that.

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The rising price of cuttlefish is one of the key factors behind

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Brixham's current boom.

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Most of the fish Alan's caught on this trip are cuttlefish,

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so he's hoping the price stays high at the auction.

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There's a lot at stake, as a bad price could mean Alan and

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his crew won't get paid at all for their four-day trip.

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We don't know what the price is going to be at the end of it all.

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It's an auction, so that means it's auctioned every day.

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There is no guarantee that we're going to get a good price.

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We could come in at the end of a week and not make the expenses of

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the daily running of the boat. With your fuel, insurance, the food,

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all the other things that come with that,

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it's approximately £2,000 a day.

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And the risks aren't just financial.

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Fishing is one of the UK's most dangerous jobs,

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with fishermen standing a one in 20 chance of being killed at work.

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There's lots of risks at sea.

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Obviously, weather is one particular thing we have to keep an eye on.

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Old wrecks that we could tip the boat over.

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Obviously, you could lose your life and lose the life of all your crew.

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You have to be very, very wary and respect the sea.

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Alan's hoping this morning's auction will make the risks worthwhile.

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I would hope to think that we would make somewhere in the region of

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about £20,000.

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That would be a good result for us.

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But the good weather that's helped them catch larger fish could

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actually make selling them more difficult.

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The problem is if everyone catches lots and lots of fish,

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then the market gets flooded with fish and then the buyers of our fish

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struggle to sell it.

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£6, 6.50. 60?

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Do all the fives, you could take them all home.

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Another number three, then.

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Did somebody say 5.50? 12.10, 12.20?

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12.10. At 12.10.

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Alan has just over six tonnes of fish for sale at today's market.

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The next few hours will determine whether or not he and his crew will

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make enough on it to earn a wage for their four-day trip.

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The huge amount of fish that's come in overnight from the Ann Marie and

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all the other boats has been sorted.

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The auctioneers will group together several boxes of the same size and

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species, and the bidders offer a price per kilo for each lot.

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Not overoptimistic today.

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They're just starting to sell our soles now,

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so we'll have a listen out and fingers crossed.

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Hopefully, it will be a bit better today.

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Right, now, the fours.

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Fours there now. How much for those?

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Lovely fish, isn't it? Best quality on here.

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£7? £7. 7.10? Ten, 20? 20, 30? £10 by Brixham.

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10.10? £10, Brixham.

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-Which piece, Nige?

-Alan's Dover soles have been sold as part of a

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group averaging around £10 per kilo, £2 less than a month before.

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He's made just under £1,500 for them.

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Right, number two tubs. 1.20. I've accepted 1.10.

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£1?

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Alan's catch is going under the hammer lot by lot.

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There's nothing he can do but wait.

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Ones, twos and threes.

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Ten?

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Prices so far aren't quite what he was hoping for.

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26.

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At 10.70.

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10.70 again.

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They've just sold our monk and the price has been much the same as the

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other boats, so it's been OK, but not a brilliant price.

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There's a long way to go to reach the £20,000 target that will ensure

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Alan and his crew get a decent wage,

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but he still has his big cuttlefish haul to go.

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Will it bring in the big bucks he was banking on?

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The daily dramas taking place at the market are just the latest chapter

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in its long history.

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Fish has been auctioned here for over 100 years and fishing has been

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the town's lifeblood for over a thousand.

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So-called Brixham trawlers were among the world's first deep sea

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fishing vessels, allowing fishermen

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to go further and deeper than ever before.

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Been a fishing town for many a year.

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Back in the 18th century, really, it all starts from the sailing

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smacks right up till now, so all the modern fleet that we have.

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7.1.

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Right, number two.

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I've got £3 by Ocean. 3.10?

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But the auction isn't stuck in the past.

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A £20 million upgrade in 2011 has made it one of the world's most

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hi-tech selling operations.

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Boats unload their catches at the market quay.

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These are graded overnight on a computerised conveyor belt that

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weighs and sorts each fish.

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A one is a large and a five is a small,

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so the bigger the fish, usually, the more the money.

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The data is fed to electronic pads for the auctioneers

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and digital displays that keep everyone updated on prices.

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We sell them with an electronic pad now.

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We used to do the pen and paper, but obviously,

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we've moved on from that now, which is a lot easier.

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And that, mate, is the four kilos.

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Me and John, obviously, we're not too computer minded,

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so it was a bit daunting when it all started for us,

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but we've rose above it and, you know,

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me and John are coming into the 21st century slowly.

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£6. That is 1.2 kilos. Obviously, he has.

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One of the very few regular female

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buyers is local fishmonger, Tracy Beer.

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I'm looking for the fish to be clear eyes, bright skin, just vibrant.

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Do you want that?

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What, the brill? What size is it? Is it a three?

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You see mackerel and it's shining,

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you know that's lovely and that's going to sell all day in my shop.

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2.20 on the number two plaice. I've got £2, £2.10.

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MUSIC PLAYS

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Tracy's fishmonger's shop is five miles up the coast in Paignton.

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I love my shop.

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I'm very passionate about it.

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No-one dresses my window but me.

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I've got a really nice relationship with a lot of my customers.

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You know, we're friends, really.

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-Thank you very much, my love.

-Bye.

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Thank you, bye.

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Unlike most of the buyers and sellers at Brixham market,

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Tracy's new to the game.

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I've been a fishmonger full-time for a year.

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Prior to that, I was training with the previous owner

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and myself and my husband bought the shop a year ago.

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There used to be four fishmongers here.

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Now Tracy's shop is the only one.

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The change of being a store manager to a fishmonger,

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running a business and running the shop,

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something that was completely new to me, was really hard work.

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Found it very stressful.

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I was trying to learn so much and take so much in

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but still keep that business going.

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I think the toughest part is the

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early mornings and it's such a long day.

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Obviously, I'm up at half past four in the morning and I'm actually

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doing two to three hours at market buying fish

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before my day even really begins.

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I'm just cold all day.

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You know, your hands are in ice.

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You get home from work and you smell of fish.

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But despite the difficulties, she wouldn't be anywhere else.

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I'm so passionate about it now.

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Before, I wouldn't even have a fish on my plate with a head on it.

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You know, I'd be like, "Not a chance!"

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But now, going to market, seeing all these wonderful fresh

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fish that our fishermen bring in just excites me. It's lovely.

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I'd never tried turbot before until I started going to market

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and it's amazing. So there's varieties of fish out there that

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you can get from your fishmonger

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which you won't be able to get in your supermarket.

0:18:530:18:55

I'm really hoping that people start to use their fishmonger

0:18:560:19:00

and not supermarket. It's fresh, filleted for you in store.

0:19:000:19:04

OK, Scott, do you want me to skin it for you?

0:19:060:19:08

-Yeah.

-Do you want it skinned?

0:19:080:19:10

The daily auctions at Brixham market are vital to Tracy's business.

0:19:130:19:17

It's really important to know where the fish is from.

0:19:170:19:20

Customers ask. I know it's going to be fresh,

0:19:200:19:22

I know that that fish was possibly swimming the day before.

0:19:220:19:25

When I'm there, I can choose what fish I want, I can see it.

0:19:250:19:29

Brixham is...

0:19:290:19:30

It's the world-famous Brixham fish market.

0:19:300:19:32

It makes a massive difference to my shop.

0:19:320:19:34

20 minutes back from market and I'm ready.

0:19:340:19:37

MUSIC PLAYS

0:19:370:19:42

Back at the auction, she has a long list of fish to find,

0:19:450:19:48

including plaice, cod and lemon sole.

0:19:480:19:52

I go down, I have an idea of what I need that day for my shop.

0:19:520:19:56

If I can get that fish at market, that's a good day.

0:19:560:19:59

Obviously, getting it at the right price is important.

0:19:590:20:03

I've got overheads, so if I'm buying some fish,

0:20:030:20:06

I need to know that I can double that, so, you know,

0:20:060:20:08

obviously if I'm getting a little bit more, even better.

0:20:080:20:11

I need to buy fish daily.

0:20:110:20:13

That bass mix, then. £7.

0:20:130:20:15

I've got £7. 7.10? £7...

0:20:150:20:17

And she has just a few hours before she needs

0:20:180:20:21

to have it back at her shop and be ready to open at 8:30.

0:20:210:20:25

You know, you can go to market and be really disappointed.

0:20:250:20:27

You just look and think, "Is that it?

0:20:270:20:29

"Oh, my God, what am I going to do?"

0:20:290:20:31

-£7?

-Yeah.

-I've got £7.

0:20:330:20:35

For Tracy, being one of a handful of women in a very male environment

0:20:360:20:41

took a bit of getting used to.

0:20:410:20:42

When I first went, I didn't know anybody,

0:20:420:20:45

so, to me, it was quite daunting.

0:20:450:20:47

And there's all these men, you know,

0:20:470:20:49

I didn't see any women and I was like, "Crikey," you know?

0:20:490:20:51

But they made me feel so welcome.

0:20:510:20:53

She done well when she first started, Trace.

0:20:540:20:56

I mean, to walk onto that Brixham market with 50 buyers.

0:20:560:20:59

When anybody starts down here, they will run you up.

0:20:590:21:03

They will make you pay for your fish.

0:21:030:21:05

7.50. At 7.50, bought.

0:21:050:21:07

-No, me.

-7.50.

0:21:070:21:09

-He went 7.50, did he?

-You went £7.

0:21:090:21:11

It's all right, I wanted the fives anyway.

0:21:110:21:13

-Don't argue with the auctioneer.

-No.

0:21:130:21:15

Tracy's edging her way into the action at Todd's day boat auction.

0:21:150:21:19

A buyer will position themselves next to a box they're after,

0:21:210:21:24

hoping no-one else muscles in to drive up the price.

0:21:240:21:27

Like a game of poker in woolly hats and wellies.

0:21:270:21:31

The auction is all about if you need that box,

0:21:310:21:33

you will just bid on it until you get it.

0:21:330:21:35

I will start the price off and they'll try and knock me down.

0:21:350:21:39

But I'll try to batter them back up again.

0:21:390:21:41

8.90, £9?

0:21:410:21:43

8.90.

0:21:430:21:45

And Tracy's off to a flying start.

0:21:450:21:47

-No, 1.70?

-1.70 by D&S.

0:21:470:21:50

Once they've won a box,

0:21:500:21:51

the buyer puts a tally with their shop or company's name on it.

0:21:510:21:55

Tracy's is D&S, after the previous owner of her fishmonger's shop.

0:21:550:21:59

Just bought some red mullet. It sells really well in the shop.

0:21:590:22:02

Looks nice and bright as well.

0:22:020:22:04

She's a woman on a mission.

0:22:050:22:07

-£8 for that bass.

-Seven for the fives.

0:22:080:22:11

I'll go £7.60? 1.10? 1.50, 1.60?

0:22:110:22:16

-Yeah. Yeah.

-And she's not taking any prisoners.

0:22:160:22:19

I need them.

0:22:190:22:22

-Tracy, 1.5.

-Yeah.

0:22:230:22:25

We've got plaice.

0:22:260:22:27

That's one of my bestselling fish. It's really nice sea bass.

0:22:290:22:31

Whiting, we've got some pollock.

0:22:330:22:35

My white fish, I have to have white fish in the shop.

0:22:350:22:38

And cod.

0:22:380:22:39

But there's one top-selling fish

0:22:400:22:42

Tracy still needs to get her hands on.

0:22:420:22:45

-No lemon sole?

-I've got off lemon today.

-Have you?

0:22:450:22:48

Lemon sole is a lighter,

0:22:480:22:50

more yellowy colour than Dover sole and tends to live in deeper waters.

0:22:500:22:54

It's proving to be a slippery customer today.

0:22:540:22:57

But Tracy's not about to give up.

0:22:580:22:59

Is there any there?

0:23:010:23:02

MUSIC PLAYS

0:23:030:23:05

The scale of Brixham auction reflects a national story.

0:23:100:23:13

Fish is a seriously big British business.

0:23:130:23:16

We spend over 6 billion a year on seafood with 22% of us popping down

0:23:160:23:21

to our local fish and chip shop every week.

0:23:210:23:24

Fishing brings in over £600 million a year to our economy and employs

0:23:240:23:29

around 30,000 people.

0:23:290:23:31

And it's not just us Brits who are tucking in.

0:23:330:23:35

We export around 440,000 tonnes of fish a year.

0:23:350:23:39

You know, our fish is sought-after from all over the world - Dubai,

0:23:400:23:44

places like that, because it is such high quality.

0:23:440:23:47

A whopping 70% of the fish that comes to Brixham market ends up

0:23:480:23:52

abroad in Europe, Japan, China and the USA.

0:23:520:23:56

£4.10, 4.10.

0:24:000:24:02

And one of the biggest exporters at the market is Brixham's very own

0:24:030:24:07

Mr Big, Sean Perkes.

0:24:070:24:09

He and his brother, Ian, run one of the largest fish wholesale and

0:24:140:24:18

export businesses in the area.

0:24:180:24:19

There's three brothers in the family.

0:24:190:24:22

My eldest brother and I run the fish side of it.

0:24:220:24:24

My middle brother, Graham, he's the boat owner.

0:24:240:24:26

Ian speaks five different languages in one conversation.

0:24:270:24:30

He's only speaking to somebody in Swindon!

0:24:320:24:34

Ian and Sean's business is directly opposite the market.

0:24:410:24:44

See, I think we're the only exporter that's actually based in Brixham.

0:24:440:24:47

On a daily basis now, we export to

0:24:480:24:52

France, Belgium, Holland, Germany,

0:24:520:24:56

a little bit to Spain.

0:24:560:24:57

All around France from Paris to Nice.

0:24:570:24:59

The world is a small place now with the transport.

0:24:590:25:02

I could buy that fish at six o'clock in the morning and at 6.30,

0:25:020:25:05

it's ready to go on the lorry.

0:25:050:25:07

Somebody will be eating that tomorrow in France.

0:25:080:25:10

The quality of fish we get here, the water's deep and it's cold,

0:25:130:25:17

you know, and the products that we get and we see on a daily basis,

0:25:170:25:20

you can't see anywhere. It's just perfect.

0:25:200:25:23

Like a lot of the people working in the fishing industry here,

0:25:250:25:28

Sean is Brixham born and bred.

0:25:280:25:30

The whole community of Brixham is, you know,

0:25:300:25:34

we're very, very close-knit.

0:25:340:25:36

I've lived here all my life.

0:25:360:25:38

I can't see me living anywhere else.

0:25:380:25:40

Where else would you want to be? It's got everything here.

0:25:400:25:43

You know, we've got the best sea

0:25:430:25:44

fish in the world here on our doorstep.

0:25:440:25:46

I'm the fifth generation in my family that's still involved in

0:25:470:25:52

the fishing industry from fishermen to fish packers, from wholesalers,

0:25:520:25:56

we go back hundreds of years.

0:25:560:25:58

My grandfather used to have a fish shop on the quay

0:25:580:26:03

in the late '60s, '70s.

0:26:030:26:04

My great-grandfather had a fish stall by the Golden Hind.

0:26:040:26:10

On my mother's side, we've traced it back to the 1500s.

0:26:100:26:13

Fish hawkers in Brixham.

0:26:130:26:14

It's phenomenal, really, when you see that.

0:26:140:26:17

MUSIC PLAYS

0:26:170:26:18

But Brixham's no longer a small-scale fishing town.

0:26:230:26:25

Sean and his older brother, Ian, supply over 60 businesses worldwide.

0:26:260:26:31

Their reputation depends on them

0:26:310:26:33

delivering the freshest fish every day.

0:26:330:26:35

And they have just a few hours to secure the best at the market and

0:26:350:26:39

get it on the road to their customers.

0:26:390:26:41

Fives. Last group of fives.

0:26:410:26:44

Ones and twos there now.

0:26:440:26:45

How much for those?

0:26:450:26:47

They've got a huge order of monkfish to fill today.

0:26:470:26:50

-80?

-Ten for the right price.

0:26:520:26:53

60? 70?

0:26:530:26:57

-Yeah.

-70. 80?

0:26:570:26:59

Sean can't be outbid if he's going to satisfy his customers.

0:26:590:27:03

10.70. 80? 80. 90?

0:27:030:27:06

-£11.

-£11. Ten?

0:27:060:27:09

And he's got what he was after.

0:27:120:27:14

Monks, we've got a really good order on, so we've bought about 600,

0:27:140:27:18

700 kilo of monk.

0:27:180:27:19

Some of them will get filleted, some of them will get sent whole.

0:27:190:27:22

With the clock ticking and a lot more orders to make,

0:27:240:27:27

Sean's focused on securing the best quality fish.

0:27:270:27:30

8.60. 8.70?

0:27:300:27:32

-Yeah.

-8.70, 80?

0:27:320:27:34

So imagine turbots and the brills, that will all make good money today.

0:27:350:27:40

Bass, that will make good money.

0:27:400:27:41

Squid, there's quite a lot of squid here, so we'll see how that goes.

0:27:410:27:46

Every day on the auction, you're battling against, sometimes,

0:27:480:27:51

some very good friends, but you've got to switch off and say,

0:27:510:27:55

"OK, yeah, we'll have a pint later, but at the moment, I need this fish

0:27:550:27:58

"and you're not having it, I'm having it and that's it."

0:27:580:28:01

Unfortunately, that does cause rows.

0:28:010:28:04

But it is good banter, you know?

0:28:040:28:06

A lot of those blokes that are still there I've grown up with.

0:28:060:28:09

I've been doing it 30 odd years.

0:28:090:28:12

Then you've got people like this, here, that, you know,

0:28:120:28:15

he's older than the walls around us.

0:28:150:28:18

HE LAUGHS

0:28:180:28:19

It does sometimes get a bit heated down there, but, you know,

0:28:190:28:24

they certainly wind each other up a few times.

0:28:240:28:26

What did he say?

0:28:260:28:27

John, I've grown up with and known since we could walk.

0:28:300:28:33

His house was exactly opposite mine,

0:28:330:28:35

so we've grown-up together and been big mates ever since.

0:28:350:28:38

I've known him all my life from when he used to be selling on the vans to

0:28:390:28:42

where he is now.

0:28:420:28:43

And he's quite a character, as everybody knows.

0:28:450:28:47

PHONE RINGS

0:28:470:28:48

Hooray!

0:28:480:28:50

Fives.

0:28:530:28:54

WHISTLING

0:28:550:28:56

But now's not the time to mess about

0:29:000:29:02

as the auction is moving on to squid.

0:29:020:29:04

It's kept separate from the rest of the fish because of its

0:29:050:29:08

characteristic black ink that could

0:29:080:29:10

certainly play havoc with a white coat.

0:29:100:29:13

Sean and his brother, Ian, are after a lot of it today

0:29:150:29:18

as they have a huge order to send to Europe.

0:29:180:29:21

Well, we'll be looking to buy

0:29:210:29:24

two, 2.5 tonnes today, I would think.

0:29:240:29:28

Hopefully. We'll know in five minutes.

0:29:280:29:31

There's a bumper amount of squid up for sale today, but only the very

0:29:310:29:35

best quality will do.

0:29:350:29:36

Looks the same to the untrained eye.

0:29:380:29:39

We have to go through, just to be a bit particular on quality.

0:29:410:29:45

Because we're sending a lot of this to Spain and France and Italy,

0:29:450:29:50

which is a two-day delivery service.

0:29:500:29:52

So... Especially on a Monday,

0:29:520:29:54

we've got to be very careful on what we're looking at.

0:29:540:29:57

If the fish that arrives isn't up to scratch,

0:29:570:29:59

it could ruin their reputation.

0:29:590:30:01

No.

0:30:040:30:05

This isn't good enough for us.

0:30:050:30:06

By the time that got there, it would be no good at all.

0:30:060:30:09

We find, at this time of year,

0:30:090:30:11

the squid when it's in the same trawl as the cuttlefish, obviously,

0:30:110:30:15

the cuttlefish will attack it and you get little nips taken out of it

0:30:150:30:19

which, again, is not good enough for us.

0:30:190:30:23

They've only got a few hours before

0:30:250:30:27

their squid order needs to be en route to Europe.

0:30:270:30:29

But being the big fish in a small town sometimes has its advantages.

0:30:300:30:35

They've tracked down a catch from a boat they know they can trust.

0:30:350:30:38

What boat's this?

0:30:400:30:41

Over here, John.

0:30:430:30:45

Now they just need to get enough of it to fulfil their massive order.

0:30:450:30:49

-50.

-60?

-4.50, Perkes.

0:30:490:30:53

So, that's one lot in the bag at £4.50 a kilo.

0:30:550:30:58

Shall we say 80? 80 by Walker.

0:30:590:31:01

90? 3.90 by...

0:31:010:31:03

..Perkes. £4.

0:31:040:31:05

To Perkes, 3.90.

0:31:070:31:08

Go on that. You finished?

0:31:080:31:11

Bingo! The Perkes brothers have secured enough squid to keep their

0:31:110:31:14

European customers happy.

0:31:140:31:16

Yeah, it's been all right.

0:31:180:31:19

Been a good day so far.

0:31:190:31:20

Good showing of squid, soles...

0:31:220:31:24

Bit of bass. There's a couple more bits I need,

0:31:250:31:27

maybe some scallops up there.

0:31:270:31:29

You get a bit of a feel for it.

0:31:290:31:31

You think it's good. Sometimes it'll come back and bite you in the

0:31:310:31:34

backside, but, you know, that's part of being in an auction.

0:31:340:31:39

As long as the...

0:31:400:31:41

..stuff you make more profit on is greater than the mistakes.

0:31:440:31:49

INDISTINCT BIDDING

0:31:490:31:54

Next up for sale is the cuttlefish caught by trawler boat skipper,

0:32:010:32:04

Alan Scales. He and his crew targeted it on their last trip,

0:32:040:32:09

hoping it would be the key to netting a tidy profit.

0:32:090:32:11

-Auctioneer, John, kicks off the bidding.

-Right.

0:32:150:32:18

Where you like on the number one. £4.

0:32:180:32:19

And it looks like there's a fair bit of interest.

0:32:190:32:22

Nice, aren't they? How much for those?

0:32:220:32:25

96, 97.

0:32:290:32:31

Yeah? 97, 98.

0:32:310:32:33

98, 99. 298, Coomes.

0:32:350:32:38

I think we'll have, uh, Alan's boat.

0:32:400:32:42

Alan's cuttle sells for £2.98 a kilo.

0:32:420:32:45

And with a catch of over 4,500 kilos,

0:32:450:32:48

he's made nearly £14,000 on the cuttle alone.

0:32:480:32:53

He may come close to his £20,000 target for the trip.

0:32:530:32:57

But to find out, he'll need to call

0:32:570:32:59

into the office to get his overall total.

0:32:590:33:01

-Morning, boys.

-Good morning, Al.

0:33:050:33:07

Morning, Al.

0:33:070:33:08

All right? How we get on, then?

0:33:080:33:10

-You're all right. OK.

-Yeah.

0:33:100:33:14

£20,363.

0:33:140:33:16

-Oh, that's all right.

-The cuttle's gotten £2.98.

0:33:160:33:18

Yeah.

0:33:180:33:20

Well, got me target.

0:33:220:33:23

I was aiming for £20,000, so.

0:33:230:33:25

-Well, there you go, then.

-Yeah.

-We aim to please, eh?

0:33:250:33:27

Yeah. OK.

0:33:270:33:29

-All right, mate...

-Lovely job, thank you, mate.

-Cheers, bye.

-Bye.

0:33:290:33:32

It's a huge relief for skipper, Alan.

0:33:320:33:34

With around £12,000 after the running expenses of the boat have

0:33:340:33:38

been paid, it means he and his five man crew will take home a decent

0:33:380:33:42

wage from this trip.

0:33:420:33:44

Today's auction hasn't been that bad considering the amount of fish

0:33:440:33:47

that's been landed.

0:33:470:33:48

We've ended up with a reasonable price.

0:33:480:33:51

The crew will be happy.

0:33:510:33:52

The future is looking good.

0:33:520:33:54

Probably for nine months this year

0:33:550:33:58

already that we've had excellent prices.

0:33:580:34:01

The buyers have been doing well. The boats have been doing well.

0:34:010:34:03

And everybody is happy, happy.

0:34:030:34:05

I mean, you know, if you could have that every day of the week,

0:34:050:34:08

everybody's life would be good but, unfortunately,

0:34:080:34:11

it doesn't work that way, so.

0:34:110:34:12

But not everyone at Brixham's after cuttlefish and squid.

0:34:140:34:17

Fishmonger Tracy's been at the auction for an hour and a half but

0:34:170:34:21

she's still in search of the lemon

0:34:210:34:23

sole she knows her customers will want.

0:34:230:34:25

The success of her fishmonger shop depends on keeping them happy.

0:34:250:34:29

I'm looking for lemon sole.

0:34:300:34:31

I found a small box just over there.

0:34:360:34:38

There's only about four, five fish in there.

0:34:380:34:41

Just so I've got some for the day, I've got to have lemon sole.

0:34:410:34:44

Right. The lemon sole mix.

0:34:440:34:47

-£2.50.

-Yeah.

-I've got £2.50. £3.

0:34:470:34:50

-Yeah.

-3.10 now, 3.20?

0:34:500:34:52

-Yeah.

-She really wants this fish.

-£5, 5.10?

0:34:530:34:58

But only at a price that will make her a profit.

0:34:590:35:02

60, 70. 5.70?

0:35:020:35:05

5.80.

0:35:050:35:06

-No, I just got outbid on them.

-Um, they just bid me up, bid me up.

0:35:110:35:15

I won't make any money on them. So, it's pointless me getting them.

0:35:150:35:19

At £5.80 a kilo, it was out of Tracy's price range.

0:35:190:35:23

But she's determined.

0:35:230:35:24

She's tracked down another box of lemon sole.

0:35:240:35:27

And this time, she's not going to be beaten.

0:35:270:35:29

They're going over there now.

0:35:290:35:31

There is four kilos, mate.

0:35:330:35:36

Right, now then, mixed lemon's, then.

0:35:360:35:37

-£4.

-£4.50. I've got £4.

0:35:370:35:40

-4.20?

-Yeah.

0:35:410:35:43

-40, 50?

-Yeah.

0:35:430:35:44

-60, 70?

-5.10.

-Yeah.

0:35:460:35:50

£5.20. 6.10 at 5.10.

0:35:500:35:52

Sold to the lady in the woolly hat.

0:35:550:35:57

There's not that much lemon sole on market.

0:35:590:36:02

So, obviously, the less there is, the higher the price is going to be

0:36:020:36:05

because there's guys here that all want lemon sole,

0:36:050:36:07

so it's going to push the price up.

0:36:070:36:09

I have a limit where I can go.

0:36:090:36:11

And I will stop because or else I'm not going to make any money.

0:36:110:36:14

I did go in at £4.

0:36:140:36:16

I paid £5.10.

0:36:160:36:19

Little bit more than I wanted to.

0:36:190:36:21

But I will still make a decent margin on those.

0:36:210:36:24

Everyone loves lemon sole.

0:36:240:36:25

Especially from Brixham market.

0:36:250:36:29

MUSIC PLAYS

0:36:290:36:32

Tracy came to today's auction with an ideal shopping list.

0:36:380:36:41

And after spending around £450, she's managed to tick it all off.

0:36:410:36:46

That's me done.

0:36:480:36:50

Ready to go back to the shop.

0:36:500:36:52

Exhausted.

0:36:520:36:53

Within a few hours, Tracy's catch is on display in her Paignton shop,

0:36:570:37:01

ready to tempt in her customers, including the hard-won lemon sole

0:37:010:37:05

which takes pride of place in her window.

0:37:050:37:07

If you'll forgive the pun.

0:37:070:37:09

The fisherman go out, they work very hard.

0:37:110:37:14

Our local waters are bringing these lovely fish and to take them into my

0:37:140:37:18

shop, in my window, for my customers,

0:37:180:37:20

what more can you ask for?

0:37:200:37:21

Fish wholesaler and exporter, Sean, had a lot more fish to buy today to

0:37:280:37:32

keep his customers satisfied.

0:37:320:37:34

Top of my head, we probably spent, I would say,

0:37:340:37:36

somewhere in the region of £30-35,000 today.

0:37:360:37:39

We've bought squid, octopus, cuttlefish, fresh local bass,

0:37:390:37:45

quite a bit of turbot, actually.

0:37:450:37:47

Probably 200-300 kilo of turbot.

0:37:470:37:49

Brill, probably couple of hundred kilo of brill.

0:37:490:37:52

A lot of that is for the UK.

0:37:520:37:54

And scallops, we've probably got about 60-70 boxes of scallops.

0:37:560:37:59

So, all in all, pretty good day, really.

0:37:590:38:03

The biggest challenge for his business is to get

0:38:030:38:05

the best fish as quickly as possible.

0:38:050:38:08

But with such a bumper amount at today's market,

0:38:080:38:10

it's taken longer than usual.

0:38:100:38:13

It's now, where are we? Half past ten.

0:38:130:38:15

So, we've been here on the auction for four and a half, five hours.

0:38:150:38:21

But we wanted to hang on to this.

0:38:210:38:23

We've got a sale for this in the south of France.

0:38:230:38:25

When the customer receives that,

0:38:250:38:27

it's still going to be in top notch condition,

0:38:270:38:30

purely because it's all hook and line.

0:38:300:38:34

And it has been looked after.

0:38:340:38:35

As soon as it's caught, it's chucked into slurry ice.

0:38:350:38:38

And I know that. I know the skipper.

0:38:380:38:40

I know the owner of the boat, and I know that he looks after it well.

0:38:400:38:43

Hence it's worth me hanging on till the end.

0:38:430:38:46

Paying a little bit more but it's worth it for peace of mind

0:38:460:38:49

and customer satisfaction.

0:38:490:38:51

Most of the fish I've bought already from the auction started at six is

0:38:510:38:55

already packed. It's all ready to go.

0:38:550:38:57

We've just got to go to the office, make up the labels

0:38:570:39:01

straight onto the lorry and gone.

0:39:010:39:03

It's been one of the market's busiest days,

0:39:030:39:06

but thankfully, John and Todd managed to sell it all.

0:39:060:39:10

Nearly £400,000 worth of fish.

0:39:100:39:13

It's always busy on the Monday, nine times out of ten.

0:39:130:39:17

But, you know, sometimes it can be exceptional.

0:39:170:39:19

That was a big old market.

0:39:190:39:22

The night shift was still grading fish well after the market started.

0:39:220:39:26

You know, it's that busy.

0:39:260:39:28

But if you're standing there shouting for five hours,

0:39:280:39:31

you're ready to come upstairs for a cup of tea.

0:39:310:39:33

Sean's prized prime fish heads out

0:39:400:39:42

of Brixham on huge trucks to be shipped

0:39:420:39:45

overnight and unpacked in Europe tomorrow.

0:39:450:39:47

But it's not all international for Sean.

0:39:510:39:54

The final delivery couldn't be more local.

0:39:540:39:56

It's to yet another member of the Perkes family involved in the

0:39:560:40:00

Brixham fish trade, his wife, Sarah, who runs a beach-front restaurant.

0:40:000:40:03

Well my wife was a... She's an ex police officer.

0:40:050:40:09

And the hours were just getting horrendous for her and this

0:40:090:40:12

opportunity arouse. We didn't know what it involved, to be honest.

0:40:120:40:16

And we were pretty unsure but, you know,

0:40:160:40:19

we hit the road running and it's been really successful for us.

0:40:190:40:22

You know, we've got a great name, a good following.

0:40:220:40:26

We do things simple.

0:40:260:40:27

The key for everything is to make the fish the star.

0:40:270:40:30

MUSIC PLAYS

0:40:300:40:33

It's a beautiful location.

0:40:440:40:46

A lot of my friends are fishermen, and they come in in the middle of

0:40:460:40:49

the summer and they'll pass us and

0:40:490:40:50

they'll honk the horn as they come past.

0:40:500:40:52

And the holiday-makers love it, you know.

0:40:520:40:55

If you came down in August, this would be packed already with people

0:40:550:40:58

eating breakfast and having a few drinks.

0:40:580:41:00

You can smell them cooking already.

0:41:040:41:06

Smells... Smells like fish to me.

0:41:070:41:10

-Good morning, everybody.

-Good morning.

0:41:100:41:12

How are we?

0:41:120:41:14

-Good, thank you.

-Have you missed me?

0:41:140:41:16

No. Did you call me?

0:41:170:41:18

Everything here that we're eating today

0:41:190:41:22

was everything that was on the market this morning.

0:41:220:41:25

This is turbot caught yesterday.

0:41:260:41:28

To see people enjoying what I enjoy and to see it from the market to the

0:41:290:41:35

plate, it's phenomenal.

0:41:350:41:36

You know, to see people enjoying it.

0:41:360:41:39

You know, you know you're doing something right.

0:41:390:41:41

All right there?

0:41:430:41:46

MUSIC PLAYS

0:41:460:41:50

Today's auction may be finished, but at Brixham fish market,

0:41:590:42:03

tomorrow is another day when the

0:42:030:42:05

buyers and sellers will back to do it all again.

0:42:050:42:08

I'm very passionate about my fish and I'm very determined for that

0:42:100:42:15

shop to still be there in another 30 years.

0:42:150:42:18

OK, that's £18.08, Scott.

0:42:180:42:20

Thank you.

0:42:200:42:21

I will fight for that shop.

0:42:210:42:24

I will make sure that shop is successful.

0:42:240:42:28

Whatever it takes.

0:42:280:42:29

I've been at sea now for 40 years. How much longer, I don't know.

0:42:300:42:33

But, I love fishing so much, I don't know.

0:42:330:42:36

They'll probably carry me off in a box.

0:42:360:42:38

It's a good living.

0:42:420:42:43

You know, we're surrounded by nice people, nice surroundings.

0:42:430:42:46

The industry is a good industry if you're prepared to put the work in.

0:42:460:42:50

And auctioneers, John and Todd, will be ringing the bell at 6am tomorrow

0:42:500:42:54

with more fish to sell.

0:42:540:42:56

The market in Brixham now has been going to strength to strength

0:42:560:42:59

really, at the end of the day.

0:42:590:43:01

They're a great bunch down there, really.

0:43:010:43:03

You know, might call them a few names now and again.

0:43:030:43:05

But, yeah, I love it.

0:43:050:43:06

Stephen Tompkinson narrates a series looking at the stories behind Britain's most exciting traditional markets and getting under the skin of auction houses that are at the heart of coastal and rural economies.

The first episode heads to the world-famous Brixham fish auction, which has been going for over a hundred years but is now experiencing the biggest boom in its history, turning over up to a million pounds a week. For sellers like trawler captain Alan Scales there is much at stake. He needs to get good prices for his fish or he can't pay his crew. Buyers range from big traders like Sean Perkes, spending tens of thousands of pounds a day on fish that will be exported round the world, to local fishmongers like Tracey Beer, battling to keep her shop afloat in challenging times.

The programme explores how the Brixham trawler transformed the industry in the 1800s, allowing fisherman to go further and fish deeper than ever before.


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