Fish Hatchery Technician

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Fish Hatchery Technician


Fish hatchery technicians perform work involved in the care of fish, fish eggs and maintenance of facilities in a fish hatchery. They feed, breed, hatch, raise and plant fish in controlled and enclosed environments. They may also be involved in marketing and sales, selling fish to pet stores and hobbyists.

Some fish hatchery technicians are in charge of cleaning ponds and other water sources. They also remove barriers from streams or install and maintain fish screens, ladders, and traps. Fish hatchery technicians plant, irrigate, and cultivate plants which serve as cover or food for fish. They assist other departmental personnel by collecting field data on fish by censuses and other means; trapping, tagging, or marking fish.

Hatcheries are fish-breeding and raising centers located at or near rivers and streams. They were initially used to help remedy the effects that heavy fishing has on certain populations of fish within specific areas. Years ago, nothing was done to raise new fish, so the hatchery was a solution implemented to remedy this depleting problem.

Fish hatchery technicians catch or trap fish when they return to spawn in rivers and streams. They take the fish and cut them open in order to collect all the eggs and sperm from the fish. Then they take the eggs and sperm and mix them together in a sterilized bucket. The next step is to place the fertilized eggs on "Heath" trays for incubation. After the incubation period, of about 15 months, the smolts are released and spend a few years spawning. Eventually, the salmon grow into adult size fish for sale.

Fish hatchery technicians work in a controversial field. On one hand, hatchery technicians help the constant production of salmon, however there are many problems now attached to this career. First, the genetic risks of over-breeding have hurt fish's chances for survival. In most cases of animal and human breeding, crossing fish with exact genetic traits makes the fish genetically weaker in the long run. Serious problems may occur if hatchery fish escape from their farms and mate with wild fish. The hatchery fish can expose new diseases to the wild stock. Furthermore, they have no exposure to predators and other natural forces.

Some fish hatchery technicians work to combat some of these issues by implementing new conservation and environmental programs. They add natural features such as diversity in habitat structure, cover, diversity in flow and temperature regimes, and exposure of fish to natural prey and predators. At the same time, many examples exist of healthy wild populations being established from stocks of hatchery fish.

While all the hatcheries raise fish, not all fish hatchery technicians hatch fish eggs. Some raise fish that are transferred to them from other hatcheries. They are called rearing stations. In either case, all hatcheries offer chances for people to watch fish and some technicians serve as tour guides for class trips or any other interested people in learning about fish.
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
What does it take to become a fish hatchery technician? First and foremost, they are fish lovers. They enjoy communicating with people, both orally and in writing, and like to educate people about the technology of hatcheries. Motivation and tenacity are important qualities along with good instincts. Technicians generally enjoy methodical work that takes precision.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Responsible for feeding the stock and figuring out how much food is needed
  • Maintain optimal water quality
  • Check the fish for disease and apply treatments when necessary
  • Collect and record growth and production data
  • Install, operate, maintain and clean pumps, filters and other equipment
  • Clean and maintain the nets used to hold the fish in the enclosures
  • May scuba dive to inspect sea farm operations
  • May design and construct pens, floating stations and collector strings or fences for sea farms
  • Respond to any problems with hatchery production
  • A fish hatchery technician's typical days will vary. They get the opportunity to work outdoors with fish, with little office work. They generally work standard 40-hour workweeks in all weather conditions. Sometimes, they may travel to other hatcheries to teach and learn new skills and formulate ideas about the future of a hatchery.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Fish hatchery technicians mainly work at fish hatcheries (hence the title of the career). Some may also work at conservation centers, zoos and other related fish education centers. Fish hatchery technicians can also work for the government or teach at educational institutions.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Fish hatchery technicians may decide to branch out and open up their own fish hatchery. Some may go back to school and become certified biologists, so that they can conduct more advanced research on the future of their fish. Others can advance to management and supervisory positions at the hatcheries they work at, and become teachers for visitors of the hatchery.

  Educational Paths  
Fish hatchery technicians usually require completion of a one- or two-year college program in fish hatchery technology or a related biology field. Certification in fish hatchery technology or in a related field is available through associations of technologists and technicians and may be required by some employers. Usually, a two-year period of supervised work experience is required before certification as a fish hatchery technician is granted. Volunteer work and internships are excellent ways of leaning about the job.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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