Magazine article Management Today

MT People: The Sharp End - the Men in White Coats

Magazine article Management Today

MT People: The Sharp End - the Men in White Coats

Article excerpt

Marine officer Dave Waller dons his wellies for a visit to Brixham fish market.

I'm in Brixham in Devon spending the day as a marine officer. These are the sheriffs of the seas, out to inspect the trawlers' catches to see if anything fishy's going on.

My host is Beshlie Pool, who explains that the team aren't allowed to live in Brixham - it doesn't make for comfy pub chat of a Friday night if you're dragging your neighbour through the courts for cheating the quotas.

So, while work starts at 5.30am, we have to be up at 4.15. This involves suckering me in with the smell of coffee, then slipping a serrated hook into my gob and wrenching me skywards as the sun warms the windows of Brixham's sleepy cottages.

When we arrive at the Marine Management Organisation's harbourside Portakabin, boss Nick Wright kits us out in wellies and white coats ready for our first job: the fish market inspection.

We're soon in a huge freezer, surrounded by dead fish. Small shoals of leathery-faced blokes move about in wellies and hats, as entranced by the trays of iced monkfish tails and sole as I am put off by the whiff 'Cute, aren't they,' says Beshlie, as she waves a red gurnard in my face.

These guys are the buyers and they're on the phone to their clients letting them know what's come in. Brixham is the highest-earning fishing port in the country and is renowned for the quality of its catch. The finest fish can fetch u15 a kilo. Sixty percent of the non-sole catch goes abroad; Brixham's cuttlefish, for example, all go to Italy.

I ask Nick whether buying fish is a full-time job. Isn't it just a matter of chipping up at 5am and mulling the odd cod? 'Absolutely not,' he says. 'It's very skilled.' The trick is to bid high enough to win the fish but still be able to shift it, otherwise you're stuck with a couple of tons of the stuff. That's around u30,000-worth.

The marine officers' job is to inspect paperwork - the fish have to match up with the log papers posted by the fishermen. One load of cod seems suspiciously over quota and even more fishily no one seems to know where it came from or who it belongs to. Anyone attempting to land and sell an illegal catch faces a fine of up to u50,000. …

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