Fisheries Specialist


Fisheries specialists study fish populations to improve disease control, maintain habitat quality, and develop conservation methods and safe industry practices. They often specialize in fish biology, habitat management, or population dynamics. A large part of the job involves working to consult with, and educate, the public on a variety of environmental issues that affect agriculture, forestry, and watersheds.

Man with waders and gloves on taking a sample from a pond

At a glance

Imagine you are standing in shallow saltwater, looking out over the water just off the coast of Western Canada. This area has recently been polluted by a nearby plant, and you have been working at determining how the pollutants have affected the fish and their habitats.  You have been conducting numerous assessments on the fish populations and habitats, and will reporton the impact of the environmental changes, the human activities that have caused it, and how this event may be avoided in the future.

As a fisheries specialist, you conduct research projects, write and implement programs to monitor fish, and participate in educating the public on environmental issues. You havea vast understanding of a variety of fish types, the distribution of the fish, and the importance of the species and their habitats. Not only this, but you have extensive knowledge on water, oxygen, fish diseases, fish food, fish transportation, and the handling of fish. You are also capable of operating the equipment used in fish management.

Your work is not confined to the office or the field. You spend some days inside researching or writing reports, and some days outside testing water levels or transporting fish. Humans are one of the largest threats to fish populations. You go home every day feeling as though you have contributed to saving a very important species.   

Job duties

Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a fisheries specialist:

  • Plan, conduct, and direct research activities on fish health, physiology, and genetics
  • Recommend and implement programs for population monitoring, habitat improvement, resource planning, and risk mitigation
  • Perform statistical analyses and fieldwork for fishery projects
  • Assist with the development of organizational policies, strategies, and operational initiatives based on fisheries legislation
  • Conduct assessments and report on the impact of environmental changes, human activities, and harvesting practices on fish populations and habitats
  • Provide consultation on fish protection to developers and engineers
  • Participate in public consultations and education programs
  • Other fields of work include agricultural and forestry research, natural/historical interpretation, and marketing

Work environment

Fisheries specialists work in a variety of locations, including, but not limited to:

In the office:

  • Research activities on fish health, genetics, etc
  • Write reports, documents of fish activities for the public
  • Develop programs to monitor and improve fish populations and habitats

In the field:

  • Assessing contaminated and polluted areas to measure how they have affected fish and fish habitats
  • Collecting data on fish populations, health, and habitat
  • Provide consultation and educational programs

Where to work

  • Private and public aquaculture organizations
  • Federal, provincial, and municipal government departments
  • Public laboratories and operations
  • Consulting firms specializing in environmental, horticultural, and ecological restoration
  • Commercial fisheries
  • Colleges and universities 

Education & requirements

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a fisheries specialist is a undergraduate degree. For consulting positions, a Master’s degree is recommended. The following post secondary programs are most applicable to a career in this field:

  • Environmental management
  • Biological science
  • Natural resource management
  • Natural science
  • Environmental science

It is required that practitioners working as fisheries specialists register with their provincial or territorial professional biology association.

If you are a high school student considering a career as an environmental manager, you should have a strong interest in:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Geography
  • English

Salary

Fisheries specialist in an entry level position can make between $33,500 and $47,000 per year in Canada.

A fisheries specialist with several years of experience and education can make between $53,000 and $80,000 per year.