Institute of Fisheries Management

The Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM) is an international organisation of people sharing a common interest in the modern management of recreational and commercial fisheries.

Created in 1969 in the UK, the IFM is dedicated to the advancement of sustainable fisheries management in all its forms. It is a non-profit making organisation controlled by the membership and governed by an elected council. Members are drawn from professional fisheries managers, regulatory and research bodies, fishing and angling organisations, water companies, fish farms and private individuals whose interests in fisheries are represented at many levels within government and conservation bodies. 

The Institute, in partnership with a number of other UK institutes and societies concerned with the environment, is one of the Constituent Bodies of the Society for the Environment. The Society now has a Royal Charter and is empowered to award the qualification of Chartered Environmentalist.


The interest in a fisheries career is widespread in the British Isles. Traditionally there has always been far more people attempting to obtain employment in this field than there are suitable openings, particularly at the lower entry points. The fisheries sector attracting both young people starting out on their career path, but also older persons who are thinking of a change in career.

Employing Bodies 

The Environment Agency (EA) employs the largest number of persons in freshwater fisheries work in Britain. Other employers include:-

  • Privatised Water Companies.
  • The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
  • The Freshwater Biological Association.
  • The various Rivers Trusts.
  • Scottish Office Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries Department.
  • Some Salmon District Fisheries Boards.
  • The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).
  • The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure for Northern Ireland.
  • The Fisheries Conservancy Board for Northern Ireland.
  • The Loughs Agency.
  • The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in the Republic of Ireland.
  • Fishery Boards in the Republic of Ireland.
  • Universities.
  • Local authorities.
  • Private enterprise including consultants.

Commercial fish farms

The majority of fish farming concerns are small with owners doing much of the work themselves. There are thought to be in excess of 1200 fish farms of one sort or another in the British Isles, with many salmon sea cage farms in Scotland and on the west coast of Ireland.

On the marine side of fisheries the points of entry into a career are as diverse as the freshwater side, entry being dependent on qualifications and experience.

Fish Farming

One attraction of fish farming to many is the idea of working with fish in a rural environment. Whilst this is certainly true it also has, in most cases, certain disadvantages.

  • Many fish farms are remote and isolated, with little suitable housing in the vicinity; this will apply especially with the growing number of marine fish farmers.
  • The fish need to be tended seven days a week and tasks which are fun on a summer's day can be most unpleasant in a mid-winter gale.
  • Large-scale fish farming is a relatively new industry in Great Britain and suffers from many of the ills which beset other new businesses such as poor working conditions or job security.

Fisheries Work at the Environment Agency

The Environment Agency structure currently does not have its own Fisheries function. Instead fisheries staff are included within Fisheries, Recreation and Biodiversity teams (FRB), Fisheries & Recreation Technical teams (F&R) or Environmental Monitoring teams (EMT).

Fisheries staff in the Environmental Monitoring teams will lead on fish population surveys, usually with the assistance of the designated officer from the F&R or FRB team, and possibly temporary summer students. The role will also see EMT staff lead on investigation into fish mortalities. Increasingly EMT staff will not only have to deal with both fisheries work but also carry out surveys of aquatic invertebrates, aquatic and emergent vegetation and other indicators of water quality such as diatoms.

Fisheries Officers in the F&R and FRB teams may be organized by river catchments. Their responsibilities include giving fisheries management advice, fish rescues and transfers. Increasingly they are involved in angling participation projects. Some enforcement work previously carried out by these fisheries staff is now carried out by Environment Officers.

Most EA regions also have a team of honorary bailiffs, that responsibility is to check anglers’ rod licenses and to be observant of illegal fishing activity. This is usually part-time work, and often requires the person to work weekends, when there are the most anglers on the bankside.

Fisheries staff are also employed within the Agency Head Office including the Agency Fisheries Laboratory at Brampton, Cambridgeshire. The Environment Agency’s fish hatchery at Calverton in Nottinghamshire, along with salmon hatcheries in Northumbria and Wales, that also employ a number of staff.

Increasingly Environmental Monitoring Teams are employing summer students to assist the regular staff in the delivery of the various ecological surveys they have to complete during the summer months. Summer temporary staff are usually employed via ‘high street’ temping agencies. Numerous full time staff at the Environment Agency obtained their current positions through following this route.

Other Fishery Work

Increasingly a large number of people seeking employment in the fisheries field are being engaged by private consultants carrying out Environmental Impact Assessments for such as the privatised water companies. But temporary staff may also carry out work contracted out by the Environment Agency, such as local investigative work, scale reading and sorting samples of aquatic invertebrates. Generally the work may only be short-term; however, it does provide the opportunity to gain valuable experience in such techniques as electro-fishing and netting, which is highly desirable to any future employers.

Bailiffs are also employed by riparian owners to maintain their own fisheries. Whilst the various Rivers Trusts forming across the UK, are also starting to employee people.

Generalised Career Structure and Entry Points

An attempt has been made to describe a simple generalised career structure in fisheries which, with only minor modification, is applicable to the staff structures of most employing bodies.

Generally it is advisable to obtain the highest qualifications before seeking permanent employment in the fisheries field. Any opportunity to gain practical experience (see above) should be taken.

Five entry points are distinguished and the usual requirements for entry at each of these is shown below.

Requirement for Entry

Point 1 - A general interest in fisheries. Previous experience of fishing methods, dealing with anglers and police work is useful for Water Bailiff positions. The Certificate of the IFM is an advantage and will almost always secure an interview.

Point 2 - For a Head Bailiff or Hatchery Manager/Keeper positions experience of working in a post at Point 1 is the major requirement. For Technical Assistants posts GCSE standard is normally required and further qualifications are an advantage.

Point 3 - Experience in a relevant post at Point 2 or a degree in a biological subject coupled with other relevant experience. Postgraduate experience is particularly useful for research posts.

Point 4 - Experience in a relevant post at Point 3 or a higher University degree in a biological subject coupled with a number of years involvement in the fisheries field. The Diploma of the IFM is distinct advantage for entry points 2-4.

Point 5 - A University degree coupled with several years of working in a relevant post at Point 4 is a minimum requirement.

Within each of the five levels there is a wide salary progression.

Many of those keen to enter fisheries have undertaken a biological course, usually to first degree level, some are still at school and others (ex-servicemen in particular) are seeking new careers. Most of the positions for qualified staff go to biologists with specialist post-graduate training or fisheries experience.

Prospective candidates who can reinforce their biological knowledge with other relevant skills will be viewed most favourably by employers. Such skills may include:

  • Experience of practical fisheries management such as may be obtained by participation in an Angling Club work party.
  • Engineering training and experience, particularly agricultural or marine engineering.
  • Livestock husbandry experience, with evidence of inborn understanding of animals, shown by good stockmen.
  • A general agricultural training, including such skills as bricklaying, erection of concrete structures or laying concrete, plumbing and electrics, together with a general aptitude to make things work in a farming environment.
  • Having a full driving licence can mean the difference between getting a job and not, particularly at the lower entry points.
  • Good interview skills are important!

Increasingly interviews for qualified positions with the various government agencies are competency based. It is assumed that the candidates being interviewed possess the necessary training and knowledge to do the job. The candidate will generally have to provide examples from previous roles that demonstrates his or hers ability too; communicate, team work, solve problems, prioritise and manage time effectively.

Anyone considering further training prior to entering fisheries can either undertake general training in practical skills as described on the previous page or specialist courses related to fisheries as given below.

Institute of Fisheries Management Correspondence Courses

The Institute organises correspondence courses leading to Certificates in Fisheries Management and in Fish Farming, and to a Diploma in Fisheries Management. These qualifications are recognised by many employers and entitle their holder to professional status within the Institute.

The booklets used in the Certificate and Diploma Courses are also available for purchase separately.

Certificate Course

The certificate in Fisheries Management provides knowledge to the level required by persons aspiring to employment as a supervisory water bailiff or fisheries inspector in the water industry, or similar positions in commercially run fisheries. It also provides a sound knowledge base for persons interested in running their own fisheries. The course is organised on a modular basis, with a core module covering freshwater biology, water quality and fish propagation, and the second module including fishery law, bailiffing and keepering duties, fishery maintenance and improvement, and fishing methods.
Both certificates take a year to complete, with core module exams in January and specific module exams in June.

Diploma Course

This is at more advanced standard and provides the level of knowledge required by persons employed in positions such as area fisheries managers in the water industry. The course extends over two years, with freshwater biology, fisheries management, fishery law and fisheries administration covered in one year, and fish husbandry, fish disease, water quality and recreation and amenity in the other year.

Short field courses are held each year, and completion of a project as well as passes in the exams is required for the award of the Diploma. This course has recently been through a credit rating exercise with the Open University Validation Service, and carries points which can be used by successful students to contribute to an Open

University degree

Tutorial systems are in operation for both Certificate and Diploma Courses, with feedback provided to students submitting test papers and essays to course tutors.

Chartered Environmentalist

The Institute offers a route to obtaining the Chartered Environmentalist qualification through being a Constituent Body of the Society for the Environment (SocEnv). Suitably qualified and experienced members of the IFM can apply to become registered by submission of an application and CV. A professional review interview is also required.

Other Institute Courses

The Institute organises an Annual Conference, covering all aspects of fisheries management and most branches organise day courses and evening talks on topical issues. Details can be obtained from Branch Secretaries, the Institute's quarterly publication 'FISH' or the Institute website ( )


A number of qualifications are relevant to fisheries work, including:

  • Scottish Modern Apprenticeships in Aquaculture
  • Scottish Vocational Qualification in Aquaculture (levels 2 and 3) or Fisheries Management.
  • National Vocational Qualifications for Aquaculture or Fisheries Management
  • First Diploma (FD), National Diploma (ND)
  • Foundation Degree, National Certificate (NC)
  • Higher National Certificate (HNC)
  • Degree (BSc)


Membership is open to anyone with an interest in fish and fisheries, their proper and sustainable management and conservation.

Applicants, depending on their qualifications, experience and employment, can apply for one of the following categories of membership.

The first two categories would be appropriate for those persons seeking professional advancement within fisheries management.

Registered Members may apply for Chartered Environmentalist status.

Persons who can demonstrate a minimum of five years relevant experience in fisheries management and who
(a) hold the Diploma of the Institute or
(b) hold an appropriate degree or
(c) hold such alternative qualifications as the Council may from time to time deem appropriate.

Persons who can demonstrate a minimum of two years relevant experience in fisheries management and who also hold such qualifications as the Council deem appropriate for this category of membership.

Individuals involved in fisheries management and who are in full or part-time education but are not in regular, paid employment It shall be a condition of membership as a Student member that a person who ceases to qualify thereof shall advise the Membership Secretary without delay.

Individuals not qualifying for membership in any other category and having an interest in fisheries management.

Bodies having an interest in fisheries management or incorporating individuals with such an interest, or sharing some common goal with the Institute.
Individuals associated with Corporate Members are not entitled to the professional benefits associated with other member categories.

Three other categories, that of Fellows(FIFM), Honorary Members (Hon MIFM) and Honorary Fellows (Hon FIFM) are controlled by nomination and elected by Council.

For further information please contact us

Institute of Fisheries Management
22 Rushworth Avenue
West Bridgford
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)115 982 2317
Fax: +44 (0)115 982 6150
E-mail: or

Information contained in this article has been provided by the Institute of Fisheries Management

Types of Fisheries jobs

Fisheries Manager
Marine Farm Supervisor
Marine Farm worker
Fish Farm Worker
Fisheries Scientist
Environmental Scientist
Environmental conservation Officer
Fish Farming Sales Executive
Habitat Biologist
Fish Health Technician
Environmental monitoring and compliance
Fish processing worker
Fish processing Manager
Fish Farm Technician

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