Fisheries Officer  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotFisheries officers are known by several names. Fish and game wardens, conservation officers and resource officers are three examples.

dotOverfishing and pollution are the challenges facing American fish stocks. Fisheries officers work to conserve and enhance fish and marine life. They enforce fishing regulations set by federal and state governments.

dotFisheries officers are involved with many conservation programs across the U.S.

"Fish and game wardens in California, throughout North America I suppose, are also hunter education instructors," says Fredrick Cole. He is a fish and game warden in California.

This means that they are required to do 20 hours a year in furthering their education. They also give regular presentations that focus on environmental awareness.

Project Wild is a popular nature program used to educate students about conservation and environmental issues.

dotIn some regions, fishing officers enforce fishing quotas set by international agreements. For example, fisheries officer Judy Dwyer is also authorized to act for the North Atlantic Fishing Organization (NAFO). NAFO enforces fish catches in international waters.

dotFisheries officers patrol wide areas of coastline, open ocean, lakes and rivers. They also frequent docks and other fish landing sites, enforcing fishing regulations through both standard investigations and covert operations.

dotFisheries officers check habitat violations, like chemical dumping, that may poison fish or other wildlife. They investigate the illegal sale of fish by people without proper licenses.

dotOfficers are authorized to issue citations, fines and in some cases, criminal charges against fishers who break regulations. They have the authority to seize boats, fishing equipment and fish catches on the spot.

dotSome fisheries officers also assist in the scientific study of fish populations. They gather information about the type, size and health of fish caught by commercial and recreational fishers and submit the data to fisheries biologists for further study.

dotAmerican fisheries protection isn't centralized. There are two distinct groups. A small number of fisheries enforcement officers work for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

They patrol federal waterways and enforce marine and criminal laws. That can include everything from illegal fishing to drug smuggling -- and the work can be dangerous, says federal fisheries enforcement agent Richard Severtson.

The bulk of fisheries officers work as state wildlife protection officers or for the Environmental Protection Agency. Duties vary from state to state.

In Indiana, for example, enforcement officers have the authority to lay criminal charges, says Dave Windsor. He is the secretary of the Association of Natural Resources Enforcement Trainers and a wildlife protection officer.

dotFisheries officers work in shifts. Changing conditions can require a lot of overtime, evening and weekend work.

dotFisheries officers need to have strength, physical fitness and an ability to work alone under stressful conditions. Officers are fully armed and may be called into emotional situations -- like arresting a gun-waving captain who doesn't want to have his boat seized for illegal fishing.

At a Glance

Patrol and protect waterways

  • You'll likely spend time educating the public
  • Most fisheries officers work as state wildlife protection officers or for the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Training is done through an academy