Symposium Summary: Hatchery Fish Biologist… A Career for the Future

Sponsor: AFS Fish Culture Section

This symposium was convened to address the question of whether fish hatchery biologist will remain a viable career choice in the future. Representatives from state and federal fish hatcheries summarized the states of their programs. Hatcheries are projected to remain an integral part of fish management and conservation in the foreseeable future. Hence, fish hatchery biologists will remain in demand. Hatchery technician positions are available to graduates with a baccalaureate degree, but fish hatchery biologist positions are more often filled by those with master’s degrees. Fish culture knowledge, skills, and competencies (KSCs) differ from fisheries management KSCs. Recent graduates may see hatcheries as a starting point for a career in fisheries management, but hatchery administrators expect a relatively high level of fish culture skills in new hires, particularly those intending to move into supervisory positions. While fish culture skills remain important, soft skills including written and oral communications are growing in importance as fish hatchery biologists are called upon more frequently to justify their activities to policy makers and the public. Several academic institutions continue to offer specialized curricula that provide KSCs expected of fish hatchery biologists, but not all fish and wildlife programs offer coursework in fish culture skills (e.g., nutrition, health, or hatchery management). Competencies covered in courses with the same name vary among institutions. Hatchery administrators and academics had somewhat similar opinions (Similarity = 62.6%) regarding KSCs expected in the 10 most important courses for a fish hatchery biologist (see Table 1, Gabelhouse 2010). Greatest agreement regarding KSCs occurred for fish culture and fish health, while hatchery administrators and academics agreed least regarding KSCs for technical writing. Overall, hatchery administrators felt learning occurred most in the cognitive domain and least within the affective domain, while academics felt that learning in fish culture curricula was more evenly distributed between the three domains of learning (cognitive, affective, and psychomotor).  Further discussions of the KSCs included in the 10 most important courses for a fish hatchery biologist appear warranted. Read the abstracts here.

—Steve Lochmann