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Environment, Agriculture & Conservation careers

Fisheries Management & Aquaculture

What is fisheries management?

A career in fisheries management may sound like you’re going to be leading team meetings with a shoal of trout, shouting orders at a school of salmon or conducting a performance review with a particularly lazy carp that has neglected its bottom-feeding duties. However, that would be ridiculous! In actual fact, people who work in the exciting world of fisheries management and aquaculture manage and regulate fisheries, fish farms and fishing activity. Keep reading and you’ll be hooked in no time (apologies for that shocking pun!).

What does fisheries management involve?

Fisheries management is all about maintaining the sustainability of fish stocks and aquatic habitats, with a view to making sure that the UK’s fishery resources continue to thrive. Aquaculture is all about the farming of fish and other aquatic creatures in controlled environments; either for human consumption or for coarse fishing purposes.

Fish are incredibly important to the British public. Not only do certain fish constitute a large part of our diet, but “angling is still Britain's most popular pastime, and is now worth more than £3bn a year.”* Consequently, thousands and thousands of fish need to be hatched, harvested and looked after every year in order to fill the stomachs of the hungry public and satisfy people’s passion for hooking tench, gudgeon and other kinds of fish through the lip with a small, sharp piece of metal.

To break into this line of work, you will need to be fascinated by fish. Most people who work in this industry are avid anglers themselves and have a vested interest in the state of the UK’s fisheries and fish farms. When it comes to fish farming, the focus is mainly on salmon, trout and carp, but all kinds of different coarse fish, ornamental breeds and shellfish can be cultivated too.

You could be working for a fish farm or a private fishery. Alternatively, you could work for government organisations or regulatory authorities, such as the Environment Agency. Whatever route you choose to take, the majority of your working life will be spent outdoors in remote rural areas; usually on the banks of lakes, ponds and rivers, or in coastal regions.

What is aquaculture?

Let’s kick off by talking about aquaculture in a bit more detail. This is the world of fish farms, ladies and gents! Aquacultural workers, scientific technicians, engineers and fish farm managers are responsible for hatching fish eggs and then tending to fish as they grow. You’ll be feeding them and maintaining their controlled living environment, before selling them to private fisheries or releasing them into rivers and other public bodies of water.

Fish farms will employ technicians and general workers to carry out feeding duties, monitor stock and identify any problems or diseases. They will also employ scientists to implement strategies that will maintain the healthy growth of fish stocks and engineers who will be in charge of the fish farm equipment, such as water pumps and water treatment devices. Fish farm managers oversee everything and deal with corporate responsibilities, such as budget control and client meetings.  

If you want to get involved with the regulatory side of fisheries management, you will most likely be employed by governmental organisations, such as the Environment Agency. Admittedly, some large private fisheries will employ fishery officers and bailiffs internally to monitor the fishing activity that happens on their land. However, the majority of the roles in this area are offered by the government.

Some people are employed to monitor environmental issues and the health of fish stocks. These guys will be visiting the UK’s many bodies of water and conducting scientific surveys of fish disease and water quality.

Many other people are employed as fishery officers. These guys act as consultants to fisheries and fish farms; offering them advice and guidance on how best to manage their fish stocks and fisheries in accordance with environmental regulations. They may also implement schemes to promote the joys of fishing to younger people.

Some fishery officers also act as enforcement officers (a.k.a. water bailiffs). They aim to stop illegal fishing activities and make sure that people who are fishing have the correct licence to do so. They patrol rivers, ponds and lakes and make sure that people have the right documentation. If they do not, then these fishery officers are often given the power to make arrests or administer fines to the angling culprits.

There are no specific entry requirements for entry-level positions in fisheries management. However, these careers are highly competitive, so it may be a good idea to study for the Certificate (lower-level) or Diploma (higher-level) offered by the Institute of Fisheries Management. Some other further education colleges and agricultural colleges offer fisheries management NVQs/SVQs. These courses will help you to develop the necessary skills for a career in this area, such as fish handling and harvesting. Alternatively, you could study a biological degree at university and gain a healthy amount of work experience in fisheries management to help you get your foot in the door.

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