Fish caught in a net

Fisheries Management

Managing a Vital Food Source

Fisheries play an essential role by providing a vital source of food in a sustainable manner. Fisheries are also a source of employment, recreation, trade, and economic well-being for people throughout the world. Globally, fisheries feed billions of people and offer jobs and livelihoods for millions more. The global market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at three trillion dollars annually.[1]  Over three billion people depend upon the oceans to provide their primary source of protein, and marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people.[2]  In the United States alone, fishing generates over $200 billion in sales each year and more than 1.7 million jobs rely on commercial and recreational fisheries.[3] Marine fisheries management is a complex process incorporating fisheries science and fish stock status information, food web and “predator/prey relationships, habitat needs, socioeconomic needs of recreational and commercial fishermen, and law enforcement issues.”[1]

The primary objective of fisheries management is to “allow enough harvest to sustain and build the fishing and seafood industries while protecting the productivity and sustainability of the marine ecosystems.”[2] Fisheries management actions are wide-ranging but generally involve establishing a harvest target or limit for a species using time, area, and gear restrictions. Harvest limits are often established by the managers with input from many other research or dockside staff and in consultation with other agencies and treaties. Limits on harvests can come in many forms, “such as individual quotas, total allowable catch, and area, gear, or season allocations. Fisheries managers are responsible for hitting the harvest limits without going too far over or under.”[3]

What is a Fishery

A fishery is a geographic area that is associated with a population of aquatic organisms (fish, mollusks, crustaceans, etc.) which are harvested for various economic endeavors.[4] Generally, a fishery exists for the purpose of providing human food, although other aims are possible, such as sport or recreational fishing), obtaining ornamental fish, or producing fish products such as fish oil. Industrial fisheries are fisheries where the catch is not intended for direct human consumption.[5]

What is a Fish Stock

Fish stock is the living resources in the community or population from which catches are taken in a fishery. The use of the term fish stock usually implies that the particular population is more or less isolated from other stocks of the same species and hence self-sustaining.[6] However, fish stocks are not the same as fish populations. A population is a group of fish of the same species, but a fish stock can be a population, a smaller subset of one population, or can include more than one population. Fish stocks are often identified by management areas, which are defined  geographical regions. They are typically fish of the same species, although individual fish in different stocks might mix or migrate between different areas.[7]

When assessing a fish stock, fisheries scientists estimate how many fish are in a management area in a given period, as well as the expected impacts and benefits of proposed fisheries management measures for that stock. Information from stock assessments helps fisheries scientists make decisions about rules or directions to follow for specific management areas or fisheries.[8]

Fisheries Management v. Aquaculture

While fisheries management and aquaculture are closely linked, there are some significant differences between the two. Aquaculture involves cultivating aquatic organisms in controlled environments, while fisheries capture wild fish and other aquatic species. Unlike fisheries, aquaculture does not pertain to cultivating and harvesting fish alone. Aquaculture is a science that involves all aspects of marine life and is a business that involves the production and marketing of shrimp, oysters, and other animals.[9] In addition, aquaculture can produce a consistent seafood supply, while fisheries depend on the availability of wild stocks. Finally, aquaculture significantly impacts the environment due to its concentrated nature, while fisheries face challenges of overfishing and bycatch bycatch is the term for unwanted fish caught during a harvest).[10]

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation And Management Reauthorization Act Of 2006

Marine fish managers in the United States must follow the regulations set out by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation And Management Reauthorization Act Of 2006. These include:

  • Preventing overfishing while ensuring the best harvest possible.
  • Relying upon the best scientific information.
  • Managing each fish stock as a single unit when possible.
  • Treating multiple closely interrelated fish stocks as a single unit.
  • Preventing infringement by policies of one state upon the rights of another state.
  • Keeping in mind the unique nature of each fishery — what’s appropriate for one fishery may not work for another.
  • Balancing conservation with the economic impact fishing restrictions have upon the community.
  • Reducing bycatch as much as possible.
  • Promoting safety.

Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries

Adopted in 1995 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries is a voluntary code that recognizes the nutritional, economic, social, environmental and cultural importance of fisheries and the interests of all those concerned with the fishery sector. The Code sets out principles and international standards of behavior relating to the world’s fish stocks with a view to ensuring the effective conservation, management and development of living aquatic resources, with due respect for the ecosystem and biodiversity. And although the Code itself is voluntary, some of the principles expressed in the Code are based on existing rules of international law. The Code applies to all fishing operations, including research, processing, trade, and fish-farming. The Code covers the capture, processing and trade of fish and fishery products, fishing operations, aquaculture, fisheries research and integration of fisheries into coastal area management.[11]


  1. Life Below Water, United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  2. Life Below Water, United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  3. Fisheries Economics of the United States, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
  4. Fisheries Science 101, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
  5. Fisheries Management, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
  6. So you want to be a fishery manager?, Coastal Fisheries Ecology Lab.
  7. What are Fisheries?, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
  8. Fishery, New World Encyclopedia.
  9. Fish Stock, European Environment Agency.
  10. Fisheries Science Overview, Government of Canada.
  11. Fisheries Science Overview, Government of Canada.
  12. Fish Farming and Aquaculture, Science & Technology in Action.
  13. Difference Between Aquaculture and Fisheries, Ask Any Difference.
  14. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
The path to becoming a fisheries manager

The Path to Becoming a Fisheries Manager

From High School to Your First Job

Build a Solid Academic Foundation


Take all available STEM-related courses (biology, physics, chemistry, computer science, mathematics) offered at your high school. Take all these classes at the most advanced level possible (honors, AP). This will help you to learn to think critically, problem-solve, and build your knowledge base.


If not available at your high school, try and take biology-related (marine biology, microbiology, fish genetics, fish physiology, ecology), aquaculture or fisheries science-related, environmental science-related, and aquatic science-related (hydrology, limnology, oceanography) classes offered online.

Keep in Mind:

Try and get work experience through a research internship, summer program, or a job. Learn how to write for a technical and non-technical audience. You will need a strong background in mathematics and statistics. Spend time learning the basics, and the more complex concepts will follow naturally.

Dive In!

And become an expert

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Make all the right moves

Advice from those who know

Maintain an excellent GPA, especially in the sciences

Have some work experience on your resume

Attend professional conferences and fisheries management seminars

Take business management courses

Present your research at student research colloquiums

Build experience through internships or as an undergraduate researcher

Join professional societies and organizations

Stay current by reading industry and professional journals

What degree is right for you?

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Undergraduate Degree

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement to work in the field of fisheries management. If you do not attend a school with a specific fisheries science major, you should obtain a degree in a constituent area (marine biology, physiology, zoology) and add coursework in hydrology, limnology, and oceanography. Familiarity with animal husbandry techniques and business management practices is essential.

Graduate Degree

A master’s degree is recommended as this is where you will be able to specialize your studies in fisheries management. If your undergraduate degree was not specifically in fisheries science or management, then a master’s degree may be required to obtain a better position as well as for future advancement. A doctoral degree and, most likely, post-doctoral studies are required if you want to have a career in academia.

10 Schools With Excellent Fisheries Management Programs

Want to see the full list of colleges and universities with degree offerings or relevant courses?

See the full list

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Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
University of Washington

Fisheries and Marine Sciences
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Fisheries Science
University of Idaho

Fisheries (Minor)
University of Maine

Fisheries and Aquatic Science
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Wildlife and Fisheries Science
Pennsylvania State University

Aquaculture and Fisheries Science
University of Rhode Island

Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
University of Florida

Tip 1

While business principles and best practices are fairly consistent no matter the industry, the unique nature of the fisheries “product” requires that you supplement your business studies with the relevant science classes.

Tip 2

Experience is highly valued for prospective fishery managers as it will provide insight into how the industry operates and allow you to develop the necessary skills. Find a shadowing opportunity to see how managers work.

Tip 3

Additional qualifications may be required for certain higher-level roles. While some jobs may not require a certification, it is an important credential to list on your resume and will show that you’re experienced in the field.

Have familiarity with one or more of the following areas

Ecosystem Management

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Aquaculture  Technology

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Fish Biology

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Business Analytics

Fish Species Identification

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Sustainable Business

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Fish Ecology

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Animal Husbandry

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Aquatic Organisms

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Global Markets

Typical Job Functions of a Fisheries Manager

Here are some of the interesting things you could be doing.

Overseeing fishery operations and equipment.

Determining sustainable fishing or harvest rates.

Planning and coordinating stock assessment activities.

Advocating for fish and ecosystem concerns.

Navigating environmental and fishing regulations.

Facilitating environmental approvals processes.

Coordinating fisheries and aquatic ecosystems projects.

Managing the conservation of facility resources.

Responding to emergencies such as oil spills.

Providing operational advice on natural resource management proposals.

There’s an Ocean of Possibilities

A career in fisheries management requires an interest in fisheries, fishing operations, fish and their natural environments. Career opportunities are varied, including science-oriented careers focused on understanding fish and aquatic ecology, managing fish resources for public agencies, and fish production and utilization for sale by private industry. Positions include fisheries manager, fisheries development officer, fisheries protection officer, and fisheries technician.

Common employers include:


  • Army Corps of Engineers
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Fish and Wildlife Services
  • Forest Services
  • Marine Advisory Extension Services
  • National Marine Fisheries Services
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • National Park Services
  • Natural Resources Conservation Services
  • Peace Corps
  • Smithsonian Institute
  • U.S. Customs Services
  • USDA Wildlife Service
  • Federal Power Administration
  • U.S. Geological Survey


  • Fish and Game Departments
  • Parks and Recreation Departments
  • Water Resource Departments
  • Water Resource Control Boards
  • Public Aquariums


  • Aquaculture and Mariculture Companies
  • Aquarium and Pet Supply Companies
  • Biotechnology Companies
  • Environmental Consultants
  • Manufacturing Companies
  • Public Utilities
  • Water Quality Monitoring Equipment


  • Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations (FAO)
  • United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
  • Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission

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