The Fish Hawker tour of Brixham’s Fish Market

Walking around the fish market on a quiet morning with the embroidery team felt like a real insight into the workings of the town. Words by Shelley Castle.

Guided by Jim Portus from the Fisherman’s Mission and Fishstock, we discovered that the strangest of sea creatures, the cuttlefish, is now called Black Gold in the town and is often the top of the catch list in terms of tonnes landed.  It’s a pretty sustainable form of seafood as the life expectancy is only 2 years and the females die after laying.  It is one of my favourite marine beings along with another Cephalopod the octopus, both of which create incredible colour shows via their rather unusual skin.

But what is really intriguing in terms of human/cuttlefish relations is that the Ministry of Defence is interested in how female cuttlefish manage to attach 100’s of eggs singly to eel grass or pink sea fans.  My immediate thought was why exploit what must be an extraordinary form of glue for a disturbed human quality such as conflict.

The most hazardous occupation in peacetime, fishing, has left its impact on Brixham in terms of personal losses.  But it has also brought a thriving working port to rival any in Europe.  So very strange to discover that supermarket fish is only 5% British or indeed fresh – the rest is processed and 50% comes from abroad. 

I overheard fragments of conversations:

What about the chain Iceland?’ and ‘I’m thinking of palm oil’ and ‘You have to think about everything as a consumer now don’t you'.

And with the waters warming and the sea changing now is probably our only chance to have a positive impact – buy local – in Brixham you can buy fish from the market the day it’s caught.  Here, the man selling us fish to study for the embroidery said:

We’ve seen more Mackerel in January and February than the traditional warmer months’ and that ‘Herring-you could treat like a clock, but now it’s anytime and not in great numbers’.

If you are interested in finding out more about climate impacts on fishing, please sign up for our upcoming talk from a Marine Ecologist and a specialist in the impact of Climate Change on Fisheries. 

It will be held at The Edge, Brixham, on 23rd August 5-7pm and is free.

Please contact for more information or to sign up.