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What Does a Fish Biologist Do?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A fish biologist works in natural environments like fisheries and lakes as well as farms and aquariums to study and monitor fish populations. Careers in this field can also include lab work, depending on the kind of research a fish biologist performs. Some private firms, government agencies, and academic institutions have places for fish biologists on their faculty and staff, creating numerous different opportunities for people with an interest in this area of the sciences. It is typically necessary to hold at least a bachelor's degree to start applying for jobs of this nature.

One aspect of the work of a fish biologist can involve counting and monitoring wild fish populations in regions where there are concerns about their health. This can include traveling out with fishing boats to watch fishing practices, collect samples, and observe crews for signs of illegal fishing activities. The biologist can also conduct water quality studies, botany surveys, and other research to explore the interactions between fish and their environment and to identify issues of concern.

In the event of a problem like a fish kill, a sudden decline in a fishery, or a drastic change to the natural environment, fish biologists may be called out. They can perform research to learn more about the cause of the event and the impact on populations of fish as well as other organisms. This can include helping environmental officials clean up a problem, as well as developing recommendations to prevent future incidents. A fish kill, for example, might be the result of the release of chemicals from a manufacturing plant, which may need to tighten up its pollution control protocols.

Aquaculture facilities that raise fish for food and other purposes also need fish biologists. They can develop appropriate facilities and procedures for handling the fish, as well as monitoring the health of populations. In aquarium settings, a fish biologist can work with rare and important specimens to keep them healthy for observation and study. The work may also include public outreach and education at museum facilities, where members of the public can learn about fish in demonstrations and workshops.

Responsibilities can be highly varied and may involve activities ranging from necropsies of dead fish to chemical analysis of water samples. Depending on where a fish biologist works, there may be continuing education expectations to keep up with the field. It may also be necessary to publish papers, present at conferences, and demonstrate other evidence of career development to be considered for promotions and tenured positions.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By SpecialBug — On Feb 02, 2014

Ingesting water that is contaminated by a chemical spill is dangerous, but then again, eating contaminated fish is just as dangerous-even deadly. A fish biologist can intervene, and advise on the safe-handling of fish or whether to avoid it altogether. The biologist will also work towards rebalancing the ecological system.

By Jewellian — On Feb 01, 2014

The job of a fish biologist is not only important work as it relates to fish, but is essential to the health and welfare of humans too. By observing the habits of fish in their habitat, a biologist will be able to determine if the water is safe for humans to ingest. If fish are dying as a result of a chemical spill, for instance, then the spill is most likely dangerous to human beings.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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