Fisheries master

Fisheries masters manage such fishing crew


Fisheries masters plan, manage and execute the activities of fishing vessels inshore, coastal and offshore waters. They direct and control the navigation. Fisheries masters can operate on ships of 500 gross tonnage or more. They control the loading, unloading and stevedoring, as well as the collection, handling, processing and preservation of fishing.

Fisheries masters typically do the following:

  • Order fishing boats to catch fish and other marine species.
  • Identify fishing grounds and set and maintain course to reach them.
  • Govern vessels using navigational instruments.
  • Direct the fishery and monitor crew activities.
  • Record fishing progress.
  • Keep a record of fishing activities, weather, and sea conditions.
  • Select and train the vessel’s crew.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to fisheries master:

master of fishing vessel
fishing vessel captain

Working conditions

Fishing operations are conducted under various environmental conditions, depending on the geographic region, body of water, and kinds of animals sought. Storms, fog, and wind may hamper fishing vessels or cause them to suspend fishing operations and return to port.

Although fishing gear has improved and operations have become more mechanized, netting and processing fish are nonetheless strenuous activities. Newer vessels have improved living quarters and amenities, but crews still experience the aggravations of confined quarters and the absence of family.

Injuries and Illnesses

Commercial fishing can be dangerous and can lead to workplace injuries or fatalities. Fisheries masters often work under hazardous conditions. Transportation to a hospital or doctor is often not readily available for these workers because they can be out at sea or in a remote area.

And although fatalities are uncommon, fisheries masters experience one of the highest rates of occupational fatalities of all occupations.

Most fatalities that happen to fisheries masters are from drowning. The crew must guard against the danger of injury from malfunctioning fishing gear, entanglement in fishing nets and gear, slippery decks, ice formation, or large waves washing over the deck. Malfunctioning navigation and communication equipment and other factors may lead to collisions, shipwrecks, or other dangerous situations, such as vessels becoming caught in storms.

Work Schedules

Fisheries masters often endure long shifts and irregular work schedules. Commercial fishing trips may require workers to be away from their home port for several weeks or months.

Many fishers are seasonal workers, and those jobs are usually filled by students and by people from other occupations who are available for seasonal work, such as teachers. For example, employment of fishers in Alaska increases significantly during the summer months, which constitute the salmon season. During these times, fishers can expect to work long hours.

Minimum qualifications

No formal educational credential is generally required to work as fisheries master. A previous experience as a deep-sea fishery worker is recommended.

Fisheries masters must be licensed by local or national authorities. The permits specify the fishing season, the type and amount of fish that may be caught, and, sometimes, the type of permissible fishing gear.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Fisheries master is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Fisheries master career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to fisheries master.

fisheries assistant engineer
fishing net maker
fisheries boatmaster
fisheries boatman

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of fisheries master. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of fisheries master with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

fisheries observer
fisheries refrigeration engineer
assistant outdoor animator
outdoor activities coordinator
outdoor animator

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of fisheries master.

  • Fisheries management: The principles, methods and equipment used in population management applied to fisheries: the concept of catch, by-catch, fishing effort, maximum sustainable yield, different sampling methods and how to use sampling material.
  • International regulations for preventing collisions at sea: Fundamental aspects of the international regulations to prevent collisions at sea, such as the conduct of vessels in sight of one another, navigation lights and markers, major light and acoustic signals, maritime signalling and buoys.
  • Fishing gear: Identification of the different gear used in capture fisheries and their functional capacity.
  • Pollution prevention: The processes used to prevent pollution: precautions to pollution of the environment, procedures to counter pollution and associated equipment, and possible measures to protect the environment.
  • Assessment of risks and threats: The security documentation and any security-related communications and information.
  • Code of conduct for responsible fisheries: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the guidelines established for professional fishers.
  • International convention for the prevention of pollution from ships: The fundamental principals and requirements laid in the International Regulation for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL): Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil, Regulations for the Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk, prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form, Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships, Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships, Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships.
  • Deterioration of fish products: Process of decomposition and spoilage of fish products: physical, enzymatic, microbiological and chemical processes occurring after harvesting.
  • Fisheries legislation: The study and analysis of different fisheries management approaches taking into account international treaties and industry norms in order to analyze fisheries management regulations.
  • Maritime meteorology: The scientific field of study that interprets meteorological information and applies it to ensure the safety of marine traffic.
  • Fishing vessels: Denomination of the different elements and equipment of fishing vessels.
  • Risks associated with undertaking fishing operations: General risks occurring when working on fishing boats and specific risks occurring only in some fishing modalities. Prevention of threats and accidents.
  • Global maritime distress and safety system: The internationally agreed-upon set of safety procedures, types of equipment and communication protocols used to increase safety and make it easier to rescue distressed ships, boats and aircraft.
  • Quality of fish products: Factors affecting the quality of fish products. For instance, differences between species, impact of the fishing gears and parasite influence on the preservation of quality.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of fisheries master.

  • Provide on-board safety training: Develop and implement on-board safety training programmes.
  • Work in outdoor conditions: Can cope with the different climate conditions such as heat, rain, cold or in strong wind.
  • Assess trim of vessels: Assess the trim stability of vessels, referring to the stability of a vessel while it is in a static condition.
  • Use meteorological information: Use and interpret meteorological information for operations dependent on climatic conditions. Use this information to provide advise on safe operations in relation to weather conditions.
  • Provide first aid: Administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation or first aid in order to provide help to a sick or injured person until they receive more complete medical treatment.
  • Prepare and execute regular safety exercises: Plan and perform regular safety exercises; maximise safety in potentially dangerous situations.
  • Use water navigation devices: Utilise water navigation devices, e.g. compass or sextant, or navigational aids such as lighthouses or buoys, radar, satellite, and computer systems, in order to navigate vessels on waterways. Work with recent charts/maps, notices, and publications in order to determine the precise position of a vessel.
  • Extinguish fires: Choose the adequate substances and methods to extinguish fires depending on their size, such as water and various chemical agents. Use a breathing apparatus.
  • Coordinate cargo handling: Organize stowing with a plan of load distribution to get the stability of the vessel and security. Direct cargo operations.
  • Secure cargo in stowage: Secure cargo stowage with basic knowledge of stowing methods; ensure efficient and safe transport of goods.
  • Undertake navigation safety actions: Recognise unsafe situations and perform follow-up actions according to the safety regulations. Immediately warn ship management. Use personal protective and rescue equipment.
  • Assess stability of vessels: Assess the two kinds of stability of vessels, namely transversal and longitudinal.
  • Communicate using the global maritime distress and safety system: Send an alert in case of distress, using any of the various GMDSS radio systems such that the alert has a very high probability of being received by either shore rescue authorities and/or other vessels in the area.
  • Prevent sea pollution: Organize and monitor environment protection applying the regulations for pollution prevention at sea.
  • Coordinate fire fighting: Organize and direct the operations of fire fighting, according to the ship’s emergency plans to ensure safety.
  • Apply fishing manoeuvres: Run shooting and hauling gear operations for its optimal performance, complying with the regulations for responsible fishing and with the security measures.
  • Survive at sea in the event of ship abandonment: Identify muster signals and what emergencies they signal. Comply with established procedures. Don and use a lifejacket or an immersion suit. Safely jump into the water from a height. Swim and right an inverted liferaft while wearing a swim while wearing a lifejacket. Keep afloat without a lifejacket. Board a survival craft from the ship, or from the water while wearing a lifejacket. Take initial actions on boarding survival craft to enhance chance of survival. Stream a drogue or sea-anchor. Operate survival craft equipment. Operate location devices, including radio equipment.
  • Ensure vessel compliance with regulations: Inspect vessels, vessel components, and equipment; ensure compliance with standards and specifications.
  • Conduct water navigation: Ensure that a vessel carries up to date and adequate charts and appropriate nautical documents. Lead the process of preparing the voyage report, the vessel passage plan, daily position reports, and the pilot’s information sheet.
  • Coordinate fish handling operations: Organise fish handling operations to avoid fish products deterioration. Check the cleanliness of the deck and fishing hole before loading and manipulation. Control that the fishes are headless, gutted, washed and sorted. Perform operations taking into account health hygiene regulations.
  • Recognise abnormalities on board: Identify anomalies and abnormalities on board, evaluate them, and take appropriate actions to restore normal operation of ship. Check all (safety) systems for operational functions. Organise actions to be taken in the event of an identified problem.
  • Use maritime English: Communicate in English employing language used in actual situations on board ships, in ports and elsewhere in the shipping chain.
  • Evaluate schools of fish: Interpret the information provided by electronic equipment and other aid to fisheries to evaluate the characteristics of a school of fish.
  • Schedule fishing: Organise effective fishing manoeuvres taking into account the meteorological conditions and the extractive system.
  • Maintain safe navigation watches: Observe principles in keeping a navigation watch. Take over, accept and pass on a watch. Steer the vessel and perform routine duties undertaken during a watch. Observe safety and emergency procedures. Observe safety precautions during a watch and take immediate actions in the event of fire or accident.
  • Support vessel manoeuvres: Participate in manoeuvres at port: berthing, anchoring and other mooring operations. Contribute to a safe navigational watch.
  • Provide training: Provide training and orientation to new team members, or assign this task to an appropriately experienced team member.
  • Swim: Move through water by means of the limbs.
  • Operate ship rescue machinery: Operate rescue boats and survival craft. Launch the boats as required and operate their equipment. Take care of survivors and survival craft after abandoning ship. Use electronic devices to track and communicate location, including communications and signalling apparatus and pyrotechnics.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of fisheries master. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

ISCO group and title

6223 – Deep-sea fishery workers

  1. Fisheries master – ESCO
  2. Fishing masters and officers – WorkBC
  3. Fishing Vessels Masters and Officers – Gouvernement du Québec
  4. Fishing and Hunting Workers : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  5. Featured image: Photo by Jo Kassis from Pexels
Last updated on October 25, 2022

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