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How to Leverage a Degree in Fisheries for a Rewarding Career

Love the great outdoors and looking for career that lets you pursue your passion for nature? Consider a career in fish farming or in fisheries.

What is a fishery?

A fishery is a body of water in which sports or commercial fishing occur. It can be a freshwater or saltwater environment. Generally, a fishery has a geographic area that may mimic the range of certain species of fish important to that area. Fisheries are also environments governed by laws and regulations and pose an economic vestment for individuals, companies, cities, nations, and even the world. An example of a fishery would be the fabled Kenai River in Alaska, which is Varden char, and other species of fish.

The fishery, however, is more than just a focus for fish. Many other animals require the fishery to survive. The salmon draw millions of people each year to the region. Their arrival also signals other natural events, such as the migration of bears, eagles, foxes, wolves. So, a fishery is also an epic chunk of the natural environment. In terms of people, there are commercial fisheries, sports or recreational fisheries, and subsistence fisheries.

How do fisheries work?

The key to fisheries is sustainability. Shared access to fisheries can be unsustainable. A common access fishery means that many people have access without oversight. In common fisheries, over-fishing threatens the next year’s catch, becoming smaller until the fishery can no longer support the fishing. To maintain a healthy fishery requires that regulations govern the number of fish harvested in a defined period. Those rules and regulations vary depending on the species of fish.

An excellent way to look at this is to compare the lifecycle of Chum Salmon with Pink Salmon. These are two of the species within the Pacific Salmon family. Salmon, as a whole, may spend up to seven years in the ocean. Pink Salmon spend precisely 18 months in the sea and then return to spawn. Chum Salmon may stay in salt water as long as seven years, but most return to spawn by year four. Pink Salmon reproduce faster than do Chum Salmon. So, if the harvest of Chum Salmon is overly large, it takes much longer for their numbers to return to normal than that of the Pink Salmon. After all, Pink Salmon will reproduce two times in the four years, it takes the Chum Salmon to spawn just once.

Regulating fisheries helps sustain the fishing populations year-over-year. That means that the economics of the fishery also remains intact. A regulated fishery is one that is monitored for sustainability, which includes the population of fish, the harvest of fish, environmental issues that may threaten the fishery, and how people use the fishery—commercially, recreationally, or as a subsistence fishery. These measurements are not taken with just a single year in mind, but for every year.

Why are fisheries important?

Worldwide, nearly 3 billion people depend on fish or fishing to produce food to eat. Each year, we catch 155 million tons of fish worldwide. Without understanding fisheries and the increase in human populations, there would soon be no fish to eat.

Fisheries are essential on many levels. First, many people rely on fish as a significant part of their diet. Sustenance fisheries are fisheries where certain groups of people fish to produce food. Secondly, commercial fishing is a massive industry. Since we are taking 155 million tons of fish each year, that number begins to define commercial fisheries’ size and financial relationship worldwide.

Healthy fisheries are incredibly important not just to humans but to wildlife, such as bears, eagles, seals, sea lions—from top predators to the smallest member of the food web. Management of every aspect of a healthy fishery is a must; else, the fish go extinct, and the fishery closes.

What fishery jobs can I do with a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology?

There is a long list of fishery jobs that are open to people who hold a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology. These professionals are will-prepared to pursue opportunities in managing fisheries, restoring fisheries, and enforcing the fishery’s laws and regulations, as well as data collection and interpretation, etc. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics offers the following insights:

Wildlife Biologist, Zoologist, Marine Biologist, Fisheries Biologist and More

In 2019, the median pay for a wildlife biologist was $62,274 per year. Expect around 20,000 new jobs for wildlife biologists by 2029.

• Conservation Manager

In 2019, the median pay for a conservation manager was $62,410 per year. From 2019-2029, job opportunities in conservation management are projected to grow 5 percent faster than the average position. Expect around 36,100 new jobs for conservation managers over the next decade.

• Professional Fishing Guide

A professional fishing guide makes around $40,000 per year, and in unique locations that can be much more. Alaska during the salmon season, an experienced guide brings in $300 per seat in a drift boat, which generally holds 2-4 people, including the guide.

The range of fishery jobs is pretty exciting. While many biologists spend a significant portion of their day in the field, some jobs are more lab-based. A fisheries career can be 100 percent in the field or 100 percent in the lab. You can also find positions that are a hybrid of the two, giving you the option to carve out a career that fits your love of the outdoors.

How do I know if a career in fisheries is the right path for me?

The right degree program can open up a lot of options. You need not stay in fisheries to leverage your degree. There are many paths outside of fisheries that will take a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife. If you love being outdoors, are concerned about the environment, interested in economics and sustainable foods, a fishery career will likely satisfy your desire to help make the world a more sustainable place. There are worldwide challenges that impact fisheries every day, including:

  • Poaching,
  • Threats to habitats from other expanding industries, such as oil and gas
  • Regulations about farmed fish and environmental damage
  • Fishing practices as technology increases
  • International relationships between nations that share common fisheries.

An excellent example of international issues might include Japan and whaling.

A career in fisheries is unique. It is an area that touches on so many national, state, and local concerns, from protection and conservation to technology development and environmental opportunities. One such example would be making farmed fishing more environmentally friendly and sustainable. Another career objective might include increasing ecological awareness to protect fisheries. Environmental issues, such as Alaska’s Pebble Mine initiative which can have an impact on the state’s $1.5 billion annual sockeye salmon run, are always in the wind. The environmentalist avenue is wide open. There is also the opportunity to teach tourists about fishery management while taking them fishing.

Fisheries is a career field where you can carve out Fisheries Jobs that enables you to tick many boxes off your list. If you love fishing, this is an outstanding career. Suppose you love the idea of collecting data, measuring the health of the environment, and helping to create sustainability. In that case, a fishery career path may be the perfect fit for you.

If you are interested in learning more about the B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology degree offered at Unity College, contact us today.