Stepping stones to a rewarding career

Jobs and qualifications

Assistant to General Hand & General Hand Certificate I in Aquaculture »
General Hand or Field Hand Certificate II in Aquaculture »
Skilled Worker or Leading Hand Certificate III in Aquaculture»
Aquaculture Specialist Certificate IV in Aquaculture »
Aquaculture Manager Diploma of the Aquaculture»

Career pathways in aquaculture

Aquaculture is the sector of the seafood industry which involves the farming of seafood and its products. This can occur on the land or at sea. Different species are grown in various regions around Australia, depending on climate and other conditions.

Land-based farms can cover fin fish, crustaceans, algae and some shellfish.

Marine farms have traditionally grown oysters and mussels but recently, have been established to grow out various fin fish in sea cages.

As the industry has grown, so have career opportunities. Small family-run farms have concentrated on freshwater crayfish while many abalone and tuna farms are multimillion-dollar businesses relying on a good supply of skilled employees.

Opportunities exist for boat and machinery operators and maintainers, aquaculture farm hands, aquaculture specialists and managers.

Working with particular species can require specialised knowledge and skills and there may be other sorts of tasks to be done, such as managing the office and marketing the seafood product.

Australia’s commercial fishing and aquaculture industry is worth around $2.2 billion annually. The industry employs around 11,600 people (7,300 directly and 4,300 indirectly) according to Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.

The gross value of aquaculture production (including southern bluefin tuna wild-catch input to the South Australian tuna farming sector) increased by $3.8 million to $870.4 million and accounted for 40 per cent of the gross value of Australian fisheries production. The volume of aquaculture production was 73,542 tonnes, accounting for 30 per cent of total Australian fisheries production.

The value of farmed salmonids rose by 13 per cent to $369.1 million in 2009–10. Farmed salmonids continues to be the largest aquaculture species group produced, and also the most valuable fisheries product in Australia.

Salmonids accounted for 42 per cent of the total value of Australian aquaculture production and 17 per cent of the total value of fisheries production. In volume terms, the largest species produced is Australian sardines. However Australian sardines are a relatively low value product, mainly for use as bait fish.

The value of production for the wild-catch sector decreased by 3 per cent, to $1.34 billion. The volume of production decreased slightly by 1 per cent to 171,512 tonnes.

Assistant to General Hand & General Hand

General hand and assistant general hand jobs are usually at the start of a career in aquaculture. In preparation for this work, an employee at this level will usually work under direct supervision and carry out tasks such as using hand and power tools, filleting fish and shifting materials.

General Hand or Field Hand

A general hand or field hand may be involved in a variety of duties depending on the area of work. Duties may include feeding and harvesting stock, applying chemicals and operating marine vessels, vehicles and equipment. General hands can also be employed to carry out routine maintenance work, clerical tasks and marketing.

Skilled Worker or Leading Hand

A skilled worker or leading hand is an experienced worker who is likely to be involved in some of the decision-making and in coordinating team activities. Tasks may include handling and maintaining stock culture, overseeing emergency procedures, constructing farm structures and performing diving operations.

Aquaculture Specialist

An aquaculture specialist, supervisor or technical manager may supervise a stock health program, operate a hatchery, oversee harvest and post-harvest activities or maintain an office. Business management and training might also be part of his or her job

Aquaculture Manager

An operations manager of an aquaculture farm or site will have a wide range of technical skills and/or managerial, coordination and planning responsibilities. Some of the following tasks may be performed by such a person, developing a stock nutrition program, establishing an aquaculture enterprise and planning and designing water supply and disposal systems.