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Career as a Fishery Biologist

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

Who is a Fishery Biologist?

A fisheries biologist or an Ichthyologist is a scientist who studies fish in native and nonnative habitats. This type of professional investigates population numbers, migration patterns, breeding statistics, and ecological impacts. Many fisheries biologists specialize by studying a specific lake or type of fish.

What does a Fishery Biologist do?

They are a special type of wildlife biologist that work in aquatic areas where there are fish stocks. Their main concern is the health of fish populations and the broader ecology that is affected by it or can affect it. Whatever their area of expertise, they work examining individual fish for trends, stocks for numbers and how they are being impacted by the environment. This is just as true of professional Fisheries biologists who work at managed hatcheries for commercial food production as it is for those who work with oceanographers mapping ocean fish stocks.

They have a number of options available to them. Some may come at it from a position of environmental science in order to provide balance to the ecology. They may look at the role that things such as ocean acidification and pollution may have on stocks. Consequently, they may be called on as expert witnesses in corporate negligence cases (oil spills etc.) when stocks are adversely damaged.

They may also be involved in the conservation of threatened species, creating environments beneficial to number survival, in hatcheries or other artificial water areas. They may work with conservation organizations in creating those zones too. A final option is in desk-based research, examining and presenting statistics for interested stakeholders and decision makers. Their research could be as varied as feeding habits, population trends and capacity and environmental preferences.

Workplace and Environment of a Fishery Biologist:

As a wildlife biology professional, Fisheries Biologists will find many job types open to them across all sectors. Firstly, there will be conservation jobs in the various government bodies. Typically, this will include the EPA, USFWS, National Parks Service and others. They may also work in the employment of Federal government in the nation's universities and colleges, engaging in primary research or presenting the results of others' work. Academia is a strong employer of graduates with this type of qualification.

In the private sector, they may work in a variety of options including but not limited to medical research, food production, technical consulting, engineering, life sciences and research and development. Their analytical skills and ability to see the whole picture is vital in many research-based tasks.

In the third sector, they may be involved in direct conservation or research for the purpose of funding applications. Claiming private or public money often requires expert opinion as well as a sales pitch. Good statistics and good science is vital in fundraising.

Knowledge Areas to be Acquired

Knowledge Required by the Position:

Knowledge of fishery biology (including knowledge of salmon and steelhead).

Knowledge of database management.

Knowledge of fish statistical analysis methods.

Knowledge of mark-recapture analytical techniques.

Knowledge of technical writing protocols.

Additional required skills:

Knowledge of Oracle Application Express (APEX) with Oracle Procedural Language/Structured Query Language (PL/SQL),

Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML), JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheet (CSS).

Structured Query Language (SQL)

Knowledge of Relational Database Development

Knowledge of Use Case, ERD (Entity Relationship Diagrams).

Knowledge of generally accepted application development life cycle and metadata standards and processes.

Familiarity with statistical analyses methodologies; mark recapture estimation, understanding of information theoretic methods, multiple regression analyses, simulation modeling, bootstrapping and resampling methodologies, and experimental study design, specific software (spreadsheet, word processing, database management, GIS, statistical analysis)

Physical Demands:

Demands generally range from sedentary to moderate --where there is walking, climbing stairs and ladders, reaching, lifting, bending, or extended periods of standing. Some Fishery Biologists in this range have rigorous physical demands where they must be able to handle buckets of water or gear weighing from 40 - 50 pounds, engage in long daily periods of hiking, camp out for extended periods, or maintain footing in fast-moving water.


  • Communication skills: Fishery biologists must be able to effectively write research papers and reports. They also need to communicate clearly—verbally and in writing—with the public, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

  • Observation skills: It's critical to notice slight changes in behaviour of fishes or appearance and observe several elements in fish surroundings.

  • Critical-thinking skills: Fishery biologists must be able to draw conclusions from experiments, research results, and scientific observations.

  • Problem-solving skills: Fishery biologists must find solutions to help protect fishes from possible threats.

  • Stamina: Physical endurance is essential. Many fishery scientists spend weeks or months at a time in the field gathering information and studying fishes in their natural surroundings. They must complete their research in both warm and cold climates, and in all weather conditions. Fishery Biologists need emotional stamina as well, because the job can come with criticism and high-stress situations.

A Typical Workday

A fishery scientist or an Ichthyologist is a person who devotes a career studying and managing the fishery resources, which may involve shellfish, or aquatic mammals as well as fishes. As you have asked, the typical day of a fishery scientist depends upon the nature of the job. The fishery scientist may work in teaching line or in research. In teaching line, the person has to interact with students, colleagues, seniors and some time with clients also. Here the day start with preparing for lecture, and then delivery in the class. The students usually put some queries in and outside the class. Sometime the students do ask for notes. Other than class, there are usual meetings in the department with colleagues and boss. These meetings could be about, departmental activities, future planning, revision of syllabus and exam etc.

The fishery scientist who is involved in research, starts his day visiting laboratory. He or she supervises the post graduate or doctoral degree students, working on given research work. The fishery scientists collect the data and analyze and prepare a research paper for publication in scientific journal. The person who have field job, such as visiting river or pond or marine region to collect fish or observe marine animals have to spend time outside the laboratory.

On the other hand, the fishery scientist has to do laboratory work on the animals collected. This work may be studying the animal behaviour, their physiology and other things depending upon the specialization in the subject.

Generally, the fishery scientist came from many different backgrounds, but all are dedicated to effective management, use and conservation of aquatic plants and animals. As researchers, managers, administrators, or educators, they use their expertise in fish biology, fish ecology, statistics, economics, policy and administration. Depending upon the subject the person is busy in doing his or her job. The job could be done on table only for data analysis, in laboratory for closely observing the animals and in field for large and marine animals

Personality Traits

A career as an ichthyologist suits those that are detail oriented, hardworking, well organized, and have a genuine interest in nature and different forms of life.

Those who become ichthyologists are typically mentally and emotionally well prepared for a career involving diverse activities, ranging from hours and hours of data entry and report writing, to taking exciting trips to exotic locations in order to study fish in their natural habitat and collect biological samples.


  • Bachelor's Degree: A bachelor's degree is required for most entry-level ichthyology jobs, such as laboratory assistant. Pursuing coursework in areas such as biology, chemistry and environmental science will provide you with skills, knowledge and competencies in various areas that are applicable to a career as an ichthyologist, such as the scientific method, terminology, and equipment used by ichthyologists.

  • Master's Degree: A master’s degree in zoology or ichthyology will allow students to pursue practical and independent research on a specific topic, thus allowing them to gain skills in a variety of areas applicable to ichthyology careers. Having a master’s degree opens up doors to work as a research assistant, junior-level researcher, earn a senior-level position with zoos, aquariums and fish management organizations, or work as an instructor for some non-tenured college and university teaching position

  • Doctoral Degree: Having a Ph.D. in a field related to ichthyology typically qualifies someone for the same positions as a master’s degree, as well as teaching and primary research positions in ichthyology. It may also qualify them for a higher level of pay than candidates with a master’s degree.

  • Work Experience: As many jobs in biology, zoology and ichthyology are highly competitive, it is extremely important to acquire practical experience during your undergraduate and graduate years. Most university departments offer a number of summer job opportunities for research assistants. There may also be similar openings for summer students in government agencies and private industry. Be sure to ask your school’s career resources counsellor to give you information about any such opportunities. These opportunities not only provide you with valuable work experience, they allow you to network and get your foot in the door with an organization in your field. This will be extremely useful when you apply for graduate school or a permanent job.

Job Outlook

Although it has been reported that employment of zoologists and wildlife biologists would grow 5% from 2018-2028, this increase may not accurately reflect jobs in the fishery industry. Job growth was projected to be driven by biologists dedicated to environmental preservation and conservation and those involved in research. Most college programs related to fishery or marine biology state that jobs are very competitive, especially for federal or state government positions.

Fishery biologists require advanced education that could include a bachelor's or master's degree or a Ph.D., depending on the position they seek. The job outlook for these positions is about as fast as all jobs.


Salaries after M F Sc in Government Organizations

Some of the Job opportunities in the Government sector are as follows:

In State Fisheries Department one can start his career as,

  • Assistant Director

  • Research Assistant

  • Fisheries Inspector

The candidates can take up a job with the central government organizations also.

They can write the Agricultural Research Service exam conducted by the Indian Council of Agriculture Research and can take up the post of scientist in Central Fisheries Institutes like Central marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), Central Institute for Freshwater Aquaculture (CIFA), National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB), etc. Opportunities are also available in Banks as Agricultural Officers or Fisheries Officers etc.

The government sectors offer a pay which is less compared to the private sector, but is stable. Depending upon the position and profile the salaries vary. The starting salary for a Fisheries graduate will range from Rs.8, 000-10,000 per month. A Fisheries scientist might get a pay of Rs 15600-39100 per month.

Salaries after M F Sc in Private Institutions

Candidates who wish to take up a job in the private sector have lots of opportunities in the following major sectors of fisheries. They include

  • Quality Central Labs

  • Fish Processing Industries

  • Aquaculture-Farms

  • Aquaculture- Hatcheries

The pay varies according to the type of job and specialization of the candidate and varies widely. One can start with a salary of Rs 6,000-8,000 in the private sector. Experienced candidates with knowledge in fisheries field can earn a lucrative salary.

Remuneration after M F Sc in Private Practice in India and Abroad

There are lots of opportunities for candidates with graduation in fisheries abroad, in government as well as private sector. Job opportunities are plenty in US, UK, Austria, China and Japan etc. Starting salary can range from Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 65,000 per month for fresher who take up a job in the fisheries department abroad.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What hours do Fishery biologists/Ichthyologists work?

Most positions in this field do not require travel. Thus, many ichthyologists are able to work a standard 40-hour week.

Who employs Fishery biologists?

There are many organizations that are interested in employing the skills, knowledge and competencies of ichthyologists, including:

• Environmental consulting firms

• Government agencies

• Zoos and aquariums

• Fisheries

• Non-profit organizations

• Colleges and universities

What speciality can Fishery biologists choose?

They can choose to work in fields related to basic fishery research or applied research. The requirements for these positions vary and can include completing a bachelor's or master's degree or a Ph.D. Fishery biologists study fish and supervise efforts to conserve natural habitats. Some work on boats, collecting samples and documenting statistics. Others work near streams, lakes, and fish hatcheries and conduct experiments. Although some biologists hold a Ph.D., most positions only require a bachelor's or master's degree related to marine and fishery sciences.

What is the eligibility for Fisheries course from a government college?

The eligibility criteria for studying fisheries course is that the student must be with a science background.

The fisheries course is a bachelor's course of 4 years B.F.Sc(Bachelor of Fisheries Science).

The selection in government college is either by state level entrance examination or through ICAR(Indian Council of Agriculture Research).

After the student can go for further study M.F.Sc. and PhD.

Is there a difference between aquaculture and fishery science?

  • Fisheries are concerned with fish or shellfish. They mainly deal with catching, processing, and selling fish. Meanwhile, an aquaculture is related to the cultivation of both aquatic animals and aquatic plants.

  • While fisheries are solely related to catching wild fish or raising and harvesting fish, aquaculture is a science that involves all aspects of marine life.

  • While fisheries can be saltwater or freshwater, wild or farmed, an aquaculture can be Mariculture or an integrated multi-trophic aquaculture type.

  • Pearls are products that are only gotten through aquaculture and not through fisheries.

  • About 90 percent of the fish and shellfish are harvested through wild fisheries. As the wild fisheries’ stock has seen a decline in recent years, aquaculture is considered to be a way for sustaining these wild fisheries’ stock.

What Are the Dangers of Being a Fishery Scientist?

Professional fishery scientists use equipment like nets and traps to collect fish. Many of the accidents that occur in this industry involve boat incidents or falls from boats. They may spend long hours at sea doing difficult, physical work. It is considered to be the second most dangerous jobs in USA. Data for India is currently unavailable.

Is Ichthyology an art or a science?

Ichthyology is the scientific study of fish. It is a branch of biology, which is a branch of science that deals with all living things.

Is it worth becoming an Ichthyologist?

At present, most Ichthyologist jobs are confined in state and federal governments, in universities and colleges, museums, and private research institutions. This gives the impression that job opportunities are limited. However, there is growing interest on fish that live in the deepest and darkest recesses of the ocean. In fact, scientists have better knowledge of outer space than of the lives down under. Movies and television programs like the Jaws have also drawn a greater interest on what goes on in the bottom of the sea. In this regard, more and more scientists specializing in Ichthyology are expected to be in demand in the near future. the perfect career for an adventurer who likes to work in a variety of environments.

What are the related degree options for a Fishery Biologist?

Those interested in fish science may also want to consider these careers:

YouTube links for further reference:


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