Day in the life of a fisheries officer

Sourced from the NSW Landlearn website (now archived)


District Fisheries Officer

Name: Lee
Job Title: District Fisheries Officer
Job Location: Port Macquarie – Hastings Fisheries Office

Describe your typical day

I try to spend most of my day or night in the field preferably on the water.  The office drives me crazy, but there is always the paper work to catch up on.  My area of responsibility covers from Diamond Head near Laurieton to Grassy Head, near Nambucca Heads.  My work day is rarely consistent; I often start at dawn (when the fisherman are catching fish) or after dark.  Not only do I check recreational fishers for their size and bag limits, I inspect commercial fishers and conduct surveillance on those breaking the fisheries laws. I also inspect oyster farms to ensure lease conditions are being met.

What attracted you to this profession?

At high school I was always into snorkelling and scuba diving, I am not so much into fishing, but I love the water. I still love to snorkel, and kayak outside of work.

How did you get started?

I went to Southern Cross University and completed a Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in Fisheries Management and Aquaculture. I then worked as an environmental guide in Eco-tourism, and then I got the job as a fisheries officer.

What initial training did you do?

I started with an 8 week training course provide by the Department, which gave me the basics in fisheries compliance, legislation and fishing gear technology. Then through out my career I have gone on to further my training, with Certificate IV in Government.

Is there an ongoing need to update you skills?

A fisheries officer’s job is a never ending learning curve. There are always changes to legislation, changes in fishing practices and fishing gear. It is important to stay on top of your game. Embrace the changes and keep your knowledge and skills relevant.

What keeps you motivated?

Every day is different; you can’t go to work and say “Ok, today is going to be the same as yesterday”. It never is, Today I am inspecting commercial fishing trawlers, tomorrow I am patrolling a closed fishing areas, next week I am conducting surveillance on illegal netting, next month … who knows?

Who do you work with to do your job?

The Hastings Fisheries Office consists of five fisheries officers, two who work in the District team (that’s my team) and two who work in the Northern Recreational Fisheries Mobile Squad, and a Supervising Fisheries Officer (my boss) who manages the districts on the North Coast from the Hastings District to the Hunter. Generally we try to work in teams of two, on occasions we will all work together on an operation or whilst conducting surveillance.

What is the most interesting thing you have done, discovered or seen in your job?

I get to see some amazing sea creatures, a Humpback Whale breaching right in front of the boat, dolphins riding the bow wave. The most unusual thing I have found was a Grey Nurse Shark floating in the middle of the ocean, dead unfortunately. It was fascinating to get to see a large shark up so close.

How does your work benefit people and/or the environment?

My work does both, I get to educated people about responsible fishing, and being respectful to the marine environment. My work benefits the environment by educating the community of the importance of good fisheries management and apprehending someone who is illegally netting, or taking undersize fish.

What advice do you have for students still at school?

It’s hard to know what you want to spend the rest of your life doing when you’re still at school.  Think about what you enjoying doing, what you’re passionate about.  Don’t be afraid to try a few different careers. Study, study hard.


District Fisheries Officer

Name: Michael
Job title: District Fisheries Officer
Job location: Monaro District – Snowy Mountains

Describe your typical day

A fisheries officer's duties vary on a day to day basis. You have a wide range of responsibilities and need to be multi-skilled. Field duties range from routine inspections to operations involving targeted surveillance. A typical day also involves educating and advising fishers with state laws.

What attracted you to this profession?

I enjoy working outdoors and I have a keen interest in fishing.

How did you get started?

I spent seven years in the military and then went back to school and studied marine resource management, initially full-time for a year and then part time. During this time I also obtained my Commercial Coxswains Certificate as well as my Bronze Medallion swimming qualifications. I also spent a month with NSW Fisheries doing work experience.

What initial training did you do?

Most training is provided by the department, both on the job and by way of short courses. Some examples of these courses are:

  • Fire fighting
  • Safety at sea training & Senior First Aid
  • 4wd training & chainsaw operation
  • Conflict resolution & Baton and Handcuff training

Extensive courses are also carried out during training. A Certificate IV in Government is obtained, some units covered through this are: gather, manage and present evidence, conduct formal interviews and take witness statements.

Is there an ongoing need to update your skills?

There is always a need to update your skills, especially in the environment you work in. The Department offers courses that are compulsory for the position i.e.: senior first aid, baton and handcuff training. They also offer a good range of courses for self improvement.

What keeps you motivated?

I love the job and the environment in which I work, most days are different and some can be a real challenge. I enjoy promoting the fishery and find it very rewarding when we receive good feedback from the public. There is a good comradeship in the job with other Fisheries NSW staff and assisting them in their district is also motivating.

Who do you work with to do your job?

The Monaro District office at Jindabyne consists of two fisheries officers. The office is located on the grounds of the Gaden Trout Hatchery. We work with the staff there from time to time when they are at their busiest production times. Joint compliance patrols are conducted with the Maritime boating officer and with the local NSW Police. We also liaise with other authorities such as NSW Parks and Wildlife rangers and Catchment Management Authority.

What is the most interesting thing you have done, discovered or seen in your job?

The great part of the job is the locations in which you work. I’ve spent time on the coast as well as my current location in the mountains. Once while patrolling the offshore waters of the Solitary Islands, we rescued a whale which was caught up in some rope. I have also been involved in some aerial surveillance patrols where I flew in a small plane along the coast.

Working in the Snowy Mountains is a privilege. The area has a steep history of stockmen as well as the Snowy Hydro Scheme; there are some beautiful camping locations along with the iconic bushman’s huts. On a daily patrol can see most of Australia’s wildlife here.

How does your work benefit people and/or the environment?

Fisheries officers have the duty to protect and preserve fish stocks for present and future generations, reserve the rights of all who share the resource and to educate and assist those who share the resource.

Fisheries officers also detect and prevent environmental/conservation offences. This includes protecting threatened species from exploitation and also fish habitats from unauthorised works.

What advice do you have for students still at school?

Find what you’re passionate about and study. Stick to it and give yourself the best chance at being competitive for the job.