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Fishery Officer

Āpiha Hao Ika

Alternative titles for this job

Fishery officers gather information on all aspects of the fishing industry and enforce fisheries laws.


Fishery officers usually earn

$61K-$100K per year

Source: MPI, 2017.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a fishery officer are poor as the workforce is small and vacancies are limited.


Pay for fishery officers varies according to experience and specific role.

  • New fishery officers usually earn $61,000 per year.
  • Fishery officers with up to four years' experience usually earn between $61,000 and $71,000.
  • Senior fishery officers, analysts and investigators can earn between $71,000 and $100,00.

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries, 'MPI/PSA Collective Employment Agreement, 30 June 2017', 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Fishery officers may do some or all of the following:

  • collect data on caught fish and the working conditions on boats
  • inspect fishing vessels and retail outlets such as cafes and fish shops
  • enforce commercial catch limits and ensure that commercial fishing businesses have the correct documentation
  • enforce fish and shellfish quotas
  • educate people on fishery regulations
  • undertake investigative and surveillance work
  • take legal action against people who break the fisheries laws
  • gather, record and analyse information relating to the fishing industry
  • assist iwi groups with access to their customary fishing rights.

Skills and knowledge

Fishery officers need to have:

  • knowledge of the marine environment and environmental issues
  • knowledge of laws and regulations relating to catching fish and shellfish
  • an understanding of the Treaty of Waitangi and the Fisheries Settlement Act
  • good data collection and report writing skills.

Working conditions

Fishery officers:

  • may work long and irregular hours and can work evenings, weekends and public holidays
  • work in offices, local and foreign fishing vessels, fish-processing factories and retail outlets
  • spend a lot of time outdoors in most weather conditions, and may work in rough conditions out at sea
  • may need to deal with conflict and be exposed to verbal or physical abuse
  • travel widely in their home district and occasionally to other regions throughout New Zealand.

What's the job really like?

George Makene

Senior Compliance Officer

Fishery work an adventure

"It's a fantastic job, and on some days it can't be bettered. It's actually pretty special to head down the Tamaki channel at dawn, or to look at the steel-blue icebergs from your boat in Antarctica. Fishery officers can get to see some beautiful places that most people don't get to see."

"I've been down to Antarctica with the Navy monitoring tooth-fish fishing. Some officers get to patrol around the Pacific in places such as the Solomon Islands."

Police experience led to job

“I was a police officer for 11 years and was in the process of leaving when I found this job. My experience has helped with the job as I know the area and a lot of the people in this area.”

Good communication skills and confidence essential

“The core skill for a fishery officer is the ability to communicate with a wide variety of people – from gangs of poachers to Members of Parliament and lawyers. The ability to relate to people and communicate effectively is more important than a tertiary qualification.”

“You need confidence to go up and talk to an absolute stranger, as this is your everyday job. You need to be able to talk to people who may not want to talk back to you, they may just grunt at you, and you’ve got to get them to give information or comply with the law.”

Fishery officer video

El Camino talks about life as a fisheries officer – 2.54 mins

Ministry for Primary Industries Fishery Officers work with other agencies such
as New Zealand Customs to patrol our waters. We undertook inspections and boarded vessels
in the Northland area. I chose to become a Fishery Officer because I thought I had to
Our role
make a difference and I'm out here making a difference and sharing the joy with
the Customs maritime team out here. Essentially, our role as Fishery Officers, we're out there to
maintain and protect our resources out there in the beautiful Tangaroa. Primarily our role over
this week is to conduct inspections on commercial fishing vessels. A lot of the time we would get
out there and inspect these vessels just to ensure that they are reporting this catch correctly.
So, what we have here is the commercial fishing fleet that is out in our current patrol area.
Commercial fleet
What we're trying to identify is the vessels that are out there fishing as part of their
global position reporting systems. With that there is also electronic reporting which goes
with these. Having a look inside here, we can identify each vessel and see what they've
caught or what their catch is currently before or prior to boarding. A majority of the time
Identifying catch
we do like to see what they are identifying as their catch their primary catch before we do jump
aboard. We can see if they have caught anything. If not, then we want to go aboard the vessel and
actually identify what they've caught and make sure that they are reporting that correctly.
Reporting catch
Yeah, that's right. Yeah, so all this catch that he has got here in the bucket does need to be
reported and he will be recording the catch and completing that catch. When I come back
to my line to start hauling with another prompt it will say ‘start hauling’ and then it takes
the position of where I started hauling, a time stamp, everything here that's related to that.
So, at the moment I'm hauling, when I finish hauling my line, I press the done hauling
prompts and then It'll prompt him to enter all the species that have been landed on the shop.
The fisher whose vessel we boarded is a good commercial fisher and compliance was good on the
day. So, as part of the inspection we boarded the vessel as part of the requirements for a
commercial fisher. They are there to report their catch, they are there to complete the catch and
they are there to provide the catch electronically and with that the commercial fisher has done that.
Want to know more about becoming a fishery officer? Go to our website.

Entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements to become a fishery officer.

However, you do need to:

  • hold a full driver's licence
  • have no criminal convictions
  • pass an interview, psychological test and skills test
  • pass minimum fitness standards.

Potential fishery officers have up to three weeks of training before their employment is confirmed. Fishery officers continue to learn the required skills for the job while working.

Secondary education

There are no specific secondary education requirements for this job, but NCEA Level 2 in English and maths are useful.

Personal requirements

Fishery officers need to be:

  • good communicators
  • able to relate to a wide range of people and cultures
  • assertive, mature, honest and responsible
  • good at analysing information and making decisions
  • motivated, able to work well under pressure and meet deadlines
  • observant
  • able to work well in a team
  • able to handle conflict.

You've got to be a team player, but also be able to work on your own. Language barriers can be a problem, so the ability to communicate well is a core skill.

George Makene

Senior Compliance Officer

Useful experience

Useful experience for fishery officers includes:

  • work for NZ Defence Force or police
  • work for customs, quarantine or law enforcement agencies
  • any marine or fishing experience
  • work in education or research
  • security work.

Physical requirements

Fishery officers need to have a good level of fitness and health, and must be strong as some heavy lifting is involved.

They need to have good hearing and eyesight (with or without corrective lenses). They must also be able to work at sea.

Find out more about training

Ministry for Primary Industries
0800 008 333 - -
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Not many vacancies available

The Ministry for Primary Industries run a small intake for fishery officers at least once a year.

There is high competition for vacancies because this is a popular outdoor job that doesn't require a formal qualification.

 According to the Census, 150 fishery officers worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Chances best for honorary fishery officers

The Ministry for Primary Industries has more than 220 honorary fishery officers. These are volunteer warranted fishery officers who patrol the New Zealand coastline to protect fisheries. 

MPI prefers to hire fishery officers who are already honorary fishery officers.

One employer of fishery officers

The Ministry for Primary Industries is the only employer of fishery officers in New Zealand.


  • Blackwell, G, chief compliance officer, Ministry for Primary Industries, interview, August 2018.
  • Ministry for Primary Industries website, accessed August 2018, ( 
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Fishery officers may progress to jobs in areas such as investigations, analysis and intelligence, or move into management roles.

Fishery officers can specialise in a number of roles, including:
Fishery observer
Fishery observers work on boats to collect information on the working conditions on the boat, the fishing catch and environmental interactions.
Honorary fishery officer network coordinator
Honorary fishery officer network coordinators organise the volunteer fishery officers for their region.
Intelligence officer
Intelligence officers, such as compliance analysts, gather information, investigate, analyse and prepare reports on illegal fishing activities.
Patrol vessel skipper
Patrol vessel skippers run fishery patrol boats and manage the crew.
Surveillance specialist
Surveillance specialists observe and record surveillance using special equipment.
A fisherman lifts a bucket of fish beside his boat to be inspected by a fishery officer

Fishery officers may inspect fishermen’s catches like this one on land

Last updated 27 October 2023