Aquaculture involves cultivating freshwater and saltwater species under controlled conditions. This contrasts with commercial fishing which is the harvesting of wild fish. Roles in aquaculture are often not as clearly defined as those in sectors like retail and food service; many of the tasks are done by all farm workers, including the farm managers and those undertaking wider management roles. However, specialised areas such as hatcheries, stock health/veterinary practitioners, laboratory services and engineering are likely to have dedicated staff with higher skill levels.
Working in aquaculture entails many stages including caring for broodstock, breeding fish or shellfish, rearing the juvenile stages in hatcheries or nurseries, cultivating live foods (algae or small zooplankton) for the juveniles, and rearing fish or shellfish to marketable size before harvesting and transporting for processing. For some shellfish species, the juveniles are collected from the wild rather than sourced from a hatchery, so there is a capture step. Water temperatures and quality parameters are monitored by staff throughout the process. Other services monitor the health of the stock, or provide engineering services such as construction, plant maintenance, cleaning filters, treating water and maintaining grounds. Larger companies may have dedicated marketing teams to sell the produce.
Aquaculture management roles will often require experience in all aspects of aquatic farming operations, as well as an awareness of the UK seafood market and business, sales and marketing knowledge. A good understanding of relevant legislation, health and safety requirements, and good communication skills will also be required. To read more on careers in aquaculture, visit the National Careers Service.
Aquaculture can be a very scientific discipline and many roles in the industry often require a more scientific background than those in other seafood sectors, although this is not always the case.
Many people who work in aquaculture have already gained degrees, either specifically in aquaculture, or in a related subject such as biology, marine biology, marine sciences, etc. Many aquaculture and aquaculture-related training courses and qualifications are offered by UK universities, whilst more vocational training is provided by colleges of further education.
Individuals keen to pursue a career in the industry can apply to specific aquaculture degrees or post-graduate courses at:
- Hadlow College (Associate of Greenwich University) - BSc Aquaculture and Fisheries Management
- Harper Adams University - Postgraduate Certificate, Diploma, and MSc Aquaculture
- Plymouth University - MSc Sustainable Aquaculture Systems
- Sparsholt College - BSc Aquaculture and Fishery Management; MSc Applied Aquaculture and Sports Fisheries
- St Andrews University - Sustainable Aquaculture on-line courses (under and postgraduate)
- Stirling University (Institute of Aquaculture) - BSc Aquaculture; MSc in Sustainable Aquaculture, or an Aquaculture-related MSc degree
- University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) - MSc Aquaculture, Environment and Society
There are also non-degree level courses available to those wishing to work in the aquaculture sector. Many of these may be provided in the workplace in collaboration with the employer. Courses are available at:
- Barony College (SRUC) - courses in Aquaculture and Sports Fisheries
- Bridgwater College - Diplomas in Fisheries Management, and Fish husbandry
- Easton and Otley College (an Associate College of UEA) - Diplomas and foundation degrees in Fish Husbandry, Fisheries Management, and Fishery Management and Sustainable Aquaculture
- Hadlow College (Associate of Greenwich University) - Diplomas and foundation degrees in Fish Management, and Aquaculture and Fisheries Management
- Inverness College (part of UHI) - Modern Apprenticeship and SVQ courses in Aquaculture
- Sparsholt College - Foundation degrees Marine Ecology and Conservation, and Sports Fisheries and Aquaculture
- NAFC Marine Centre - (Shetland) now has a course in Aquaculture Management. Aimed at experienced , senior level fin-fish aquaculture staff, it incorporates study and on-site training while employed
Other courses covering specific aspects of aquaculture production are available; one such is the Seafish-approved qualification in Bivalve Purification.
More general courses, such as the Seafish marine safety training (developed for the fishing industry), are also very applicable to many aquaculture ventures, and could help develop practical and safety skills for those already in and/or entering the aquaculture industry. These are provided by approved independent trainers. A list of Seafish approved offshore, and onshore training providers can be found on the website.