Plymouth Trawler Agents 


In the late 1990's Plymouth Trawler Agents (PTA) took the decision to purchase an Electronic Auction System (EAS) from the Belgian firm Schelfhout Computer System, subsequently taken over by Aucxis Ltd. At the time we considered ourselves in the forefront of auction technology in the UK although electronic selling had been long-established in countries like France, Belgium and Holland. Initially the EAS was introduced as an intranet system whereby buyers attended the designated auction room on the first floor above Plymouth Fish Market. Within a relatively short period, we made the logical progression to auctioning fish on a secure internet site.

The move to internet selling has been the single biggest reason for the modest success of Plymouth Trawler Agents. At a stroke, it made the market more competitive as buyers were able to bid for fish at auction from anywhere in the country without having to attend in person.

The provision of integrated transport to and from the Market on a daily basis only served to enhance the system and make it more attractive to prospective buyers. Regional buyers are now able to receive their fish on the day of purchase and more distant buyers are able to receive their purchases within 24 hours.

The PTA Auction Sale is held daily from Monday to Friday inclusive with the exception of Bank Holidays and begins at 0600 hours. The preparation for each sale begins the night before when vessels enter the harbour to land their catches and overland catches from other ports begin to arrive. The catches of each boat have to be kept separate of course as they are sorted into species and sizes, given a quality grade, weighed and entered on the EAS before being iced and refrigerated.

Every single box or tub of fish sold at auction is given a ticket with a unique lot number naming the boat it is attached to and giving a description of the contents of the box and its weight of fish. Thus as more and more fish is entered on the system during the evening, a catalogue is gradually built of what will be available for sale the next morning. Buyers registered with the PTA can have access to the catalogue throughout the time it is being built before the sale.

 Nowadays only a few local buyers attend the auction in person; most buy online. The auctioneer decides on the order of sale each day and buyers can find this in the Order of Sale section to help them identify when a particular boat's catch is likely to be sold. Each catch is also sold in a particular species order which can also be found in the Order of Sale section.

The catches of beam trawlers and large trawlers are sold individually as they have sufficient quantities of most fish to be attractive to buyers. 

The smaller trawlers will often catch in excess of 20 different species in the mixed fishery of south west England though some of the catches of certain species will be very small, perhaps as little as 3 or 4 kilos.  Selling individual small amounts of the same species of fish for multiple vessels is not an option unless you wish to bore your buyers to death and hold incredibly long sales. Thus these vessels are grouped together and the highest bidder is given the option of a multiple purchase of a single specie  or a number of boats of his/her choosing. In summary, the system gives the "small" buyer the chance to bid a little higher and pick exactly what they want from the group per specie while it allows the "larger" buyer to clear all the fish of one specie from the group if their bid is successful, thus speeding up the auction.

The squid and cuttlefish are treated differently being sold by species per vessel. Squid is the first of the two species to be sold. Far fewer buyers compete for these species, particularly cuttlefish.  They tend to be sold early in the sale so that buyers can arrange transport for the larger quantities usually involved.

The clock programme has the facility for buyers to prebid on specific lots if they need to be elsewhere at the time of the auction. If you are monitoring the sale as it progresses, you can view your purchases at any time and view the catalogue to see what remains to be sold.

The system is totally transparent.  You need to register with our Company, purchase a buyer's licence and supply us with a suitable bank guarantee.


Prospective buyers will need to obtain a Buyer's Licence from us which runs from the 1st February to 31st January at a cost of £60 + VAT (20%)= £72. The licence has to be renewed annually.  You will also need to lodge either a bank  guarantee or cash bond with us equivalent to two weeks of your average purchases. It is important that you make a realistic appraisal of your likely fortnightly spend because you will be asked to increase your guarantee quickly if your initial estimate is unrealistic.  Once these two items have been cleared, the registration process can begin. 

You will need a computer that is connected to the internet and preferably hard wired. The programme will work with WiFi but it is not recommended as the connection speed is too variable and it runs the risk of disconnection. Please be aware that you can not run this programme with either Windows Vista or Apple Mac operating system. 

Once set up, we will send you a URL to download the remote buyers' clock programme.  Next, you will be issued with your unique cluster number and a pass code which needs to be put into the clock programme settings. When you have successfully connected, we recommend you  try a "dummy" auction.  This will enable you to practise  the different modes of buying on the auction.  Unfortunately this can only be done by arranging a practice session with our auctioneer Mark who is notoriously grumpy. Ring him via the office contact number but if you are a sensitive sort of soul, it may be best not to. 

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