Careers Info

What is aquaculture & is it a growth industry?

Aquaculture involves the farming of aquatic organisms, either marine or freshwater, under controlled conditions. Cultured organisms include fish, crustaceans (ie prawns or lobsters), molluscs (ie mussels or octopus), echinoderms (ie sea urchins or sea cucumbers), crocodiles, microalgae or macroalgae. By contrast, capture fisheries employs commercial fishing techniques to harvest from wild populations. Other terms that relate to the culture of aquatic organisms include:

  • Mariculture - this is the culture of marine organisms
  • Echinoculture - this is the culture of echinoderms (ie sea urchins or sea cucumbers)
  • Pisciculture - this is the culture of fish
  • Aquaponics - this is a union of aquaculture and hydroponic techniques

Aquaculture activities can be found all around the world. Aquatic organisms may be cultured for a number of purposes including human consumption, production of nutritional supplements, to supply the ornamental aquatics industry, to stock waterways for angling, or restocking wild populations.

FAO - Global Aquaculture Production By CountryAquaculture has been employed for thousands of years, and there is evidence that eels may have been cultured in Australia as early as 6000 BC. China has been carrying out aquaculture since approximately 2500 BC, and today is the world leader in terms of the number and quantity of species produced.

The global human population is continuously increasing, and capture fisheries alone is not able to meet the demands of the growing population. Already wild stocks of many species have become depleted through overfishing. Aquaculture is now responsible for producing a large quantity of the aquatic organisms that are used for human consumption. In 2010 approximately 148million tonnes of fish were supplied by capture fisheries and aquaculture, with 40% of that coming from aquaculture.

In 2005 it was estimated that over 23million people around the world were directly or indirectly employed in the aquaculture industry, with 22miilion being employed in Asia. As aquaculture production output increases in line with a growing human population, it can be expected that employment opportunities may increase as well. The one factor that may counteract this is the introduction of improved technology and industrialization of production. It has been suggested that through the use of more automation, process control and increased production efficiency, employment within the industry may plateau or even decrease.

Within this growing industry there will most certainly be further growth in direct and/or indirect employment. This will however likely occur at different rates in different regions, depending on the current level of industrialization in that region. In some regions there may also be a gradual shift towards employing a more trained/skilled work force.

What types of positions are available & what does the work involve?

There are a variety of career paths that can be taken in the aquaculture industry, or in very closely related industries, each with different types of positions available along the way. Career opportunities are available both in the public and private sectors.

In terms of 'hands-on' cultivation of aquatic species, there are two principal job areas which are available within the aquaculture industry, hatchery production and on-growing. To find out more information about working in each of these areas, simply follow the links below, where you will find some generalized job descriptions.

Hatchery production and on-growing are by definition the areas which are concerned with the culture of aquatic organisms. There are however other, very closely associated industries which will have other career paths available.  Having experience in one or more areas would be viewed as beneficial experience if you were to alter your career path.

  • Processing
  • Ornamental/aquatics
  • Nutrition & feed production
  • Aquatic animal health
  • Equipment supply
  • Engineering

What skills, personal attributes and qualifications do you need for a career in this industry?

The skills and qualifications that are needed will very much depend on the career path you wish to take. More details can be found by following the above links, where you can find more information about the skills and qualifications that may be required. You can also visit our homepage and browse through our current vacancies and view the job descriptions. There are however a few general common characteristics, and typically people who work in aquaculture:

  • Have a love of the aquatic environment
  • Enjoy working outdoors
  • Have a practical hands-on attitude
  • Have a compassionate and nurturing nature

The following attributes and skills are also a necessity:

  • Good problem solving skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Good communication skills
  • The ability to work as part of a team
  • Being able to work alone and think on your feet
  • The ability to closely follow procedures
  • Be flexible in terms of working hours
  • Good computer skills
  • Good commercial awareness

A bachelor's degree will provide a definite advantage in order to progress to better paid positions. Once in possession of a degree, it is usual to work as an intern, trainee or junior technician to gain practical experience. It can then be possible to progress to positions such as managers in small hatcheries or assistant managers in larger ones.

Although not always the case, a master's degree is often needed for managerial positions at larger facilities or on research projects. It will certainly help in progressing your career at a quicker rate, but experience, related short-courses and determination are often able to compensate for a higher degree. Some positions, typically senior scientist or senior researcher, may require a PhD. You should try to decide on your chosen career path as early as possible, so that you can assess whether a PhD will help you achieve your career goals.

What can you expect to earn?

According to Simply Hired, the average annual salary for aquaculture jobs in the USA as of August 2013 is $45,000. This is in slight  contrast to Indeed, which gives an average annual salary of $34,000 for aquaculture jobs in the USA.

The type of salary you can expect to earn will vary on the region in which you are aiming to work, the area of the industry you are working in, and the seniority of the post you are looking to attain. In a production environment in Europe, salaries can range from €15,000 for a technician to €50,000 for a farm manager. Bonuses, accommodation and other benefits may be negotiated depending on the position.

For lots of useful help and advice on finding and securing a position in the aquaculture industry please visit our Careers Advice section.


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