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What is a Fisheries Biologist?

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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 09 December 2016
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A fisheries biologist is a biologist who has specialized training in aquatic life. A fisheries biologist has many different job duties, and may work for either an industry or the government. Power, extraction, and aquaculture companies all employ fisheries biologists, as does the federal government and all state governments.

The job duties of a fisheries biologist depend on whom he works for, and their particular needs. For example, a fisheries biologist that works for a state governmental agency may be trusted with raising fish for stocking, through the department of natural resources or department of environmental protection. He will spend a great deal of time studying habitats, determining what species will thrive in particular conditions, and doing the actual hands-on work of raising fish from eggs to the size where they can be released.

A fisheries biologist for an extraction company, which mines coal, natural gas, or other minerals, may spend time determining how a particular construction project may affect the living conditions of existing fish. He will also work on ways to reduce adverse effects on the fish from run-off from a mining site, and maintain records to ensure that the company stays in compliance with both state and federal laws.

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Regardless of whether someone wishes to work for industry or the government, the education process for fisheries biologists is similar. It is possible to find a job in the field with a four-year degree in biological sciences. Given the research intensive nature of the work, however, more education makes finding employment easier. A four-year degree in biology, zoology or other related field is a good start, but many entry-level fisheries biologists will have graduate degrees as well.

Fisheries biologists can make themselves more attractive to potential employers by completing work-study programs, volunteering, or taking part time jobs in the field while still in school. Some common fisheries biologist projects, such as conducting censuses of a particular body of water, are easier with additional help. Volunteering to help on these projects can be a valuable networking advantage, as well as a way to gain practical experience. It is never too early to participate in this type of activity; census taking requires that the numbers of a particular species be recorded. While a fisheries biologist needs to be on hand for this type of activity, having additional hands available, even those with no specialized training, is beneficial.

Once a fisheries biologist finds employment, he or she often remains in the same field for an entire career. Some make life-long jobs of working for the government, while others move up through the ranks in an industry position. Others switch between working for industry and working for the government. Many companies see the benefit of employing someone who has experience regulating their industry to help them remain in compliance.

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