Fisheries officers are known by several names. Fish and game wardens, conservation
officers and resource officers are three examples.
Overfishing and pollution are the challenges facing American fish stocks.
Fisheries officers work to conserve and enhance fish and marine life. They
enforce fishing regulations set by federal and state governments.
Fisheries officers are involved with many conservation programs across
"Fish and game wardens in California, throughout North America I suppose,
are also hunter education instructors," says Fredrick Cole. He is a fish and
game warden in California.
This means that they are required to do 20 hours a year in furthering their
education. They also give regular presentations that focus on environmental
Project Wild is a popular nature program used to educate students about
conservation and environmental issues.
In some regions, fishing officers enforce fishing quotas set by international
agreements. For example, fisheries officer Judy Dwyer is also authorized to
act for the North Atlantic Fishing Organization (NAFO). NAFO enforces fish
catches in international waters.
Fisheries officers patrol wide areas of coastline, open ocean, lakes and
rivers. They also frequent docks and other fish landing sites, enforcing fishing
regulations through both standard investigations and covert operations.
Fisheries officers check habitat violations, like chemical dumping, that
may poison fish or other wildlife. They investigate the illegal sale of fish
by people without proper licenses.
Officers are authorized to issue citations, fines and in some cases, criminal
charges against fishers who break regulations. They have the authority to
seize boats, fishing equipment and fish catches on the spot.
Some fisheries officers also assist in the scientific study of fish populations.
They gather information about the type, size and health of fish caught by
commercial and recreational fishers and submit the data to fisheries biologists
for further study.
American fisheries protection isn't centralized. There are two distinct
groups. A small number of fisheries enforcement officers work for the National
Marine Fisheries Service.
They patrol federal waterways and enforce marine and criminal laws. That
can include everything from illegal fishing to drug smuggling -- and the work
can be dangerous, says federal fisheries enforcement agent Richard Severtson.
The bulk of fisheries officers work as state wildlife protection officers
or for the Environmental Protection Agency. Duties vary from state to state.
In Indiana, for example, enforcement officers have the authority to lay
criminal charges, says Dave Windsor. He is the secretary of the Association
of Natural Resources Enforcement Trainers and a wildlife protection officer.
Fisheries officers work in shifts. Changing conditions can require a lot
of overtime, evening and weekend work.
Fisheries officers need to have strength, physical fitness and an ability
to work alone under stressful conditions. Officers are fully armed and may
be called into emotional situations -- like arresting a gun-waving captain
who doesn't want to have his boat seized for illegal fishing.