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Master fisher

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Summary of occupation

​Master fishers work in the commercial fishing industry managing a fishing vessel and fishing operations to catch and preserve fish, crustacea and molluscs. Master Fishers assist the crew in sorting, cleaning preserving, stowing and refrigerating their catch. They may also be responsible for the maintenance of their vessel and fishing equipment, and the management of their crew. Master fishers usually work based from remote coastal communities located around Western Australia.

ANZSCO description: Controls a fishing vessel and fishing operations to catch and preserve fish, crustacea and molluscs. Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names:
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

​A master fisher needs:

  • the ability to work as part of a team
  • to be physically fit
  • good hand-eye coordination
  • to be prepared to spend long periods of time at sea
  • an awareness of safety principles and procedures
  • an understanding of fishing regulations and legislation.
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Working conditions

​Working conditions will vary depending on the type of fishing operations a master fisher is undertaking. Some fishing operations are seasonal, and a master fisher may work continuously – and live out at sea – for extended periods. Master fishers can work long shifts and odd hours, in varied and extreme weather conditions. They are required to maintain strict safety standards on board.

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Salary details

On average, master fishers, classified under marine transport professionals, can expect to earn up to $2 299 per week ($119 543 per year) depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience.

Earnings for master fishers can vary significantly depending on the type of fish, crustacean or mollusc, the size of the catch, the level of demand for their products, commodity prices, local and international markets, as well as expenses associated with running the fishing operation.

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Tools and technologies

​Depending on what they are trying to catch, master fishers will use a range of fishing equipment such as trawls, steel pots, nets, long lines and dredges. They also use navigational aids, marine radio to transmit and receive information, and equipment used to interpret weather patterns. They must also wear safety equipment such as life jackets, distress beacons, hard hats, safety boots and high visibility clothing to minimise risks.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

​You can work as a master fisher without any formal qualifications and get training on the job. However, entry to this occupation may be improved if you have experience working on fishing vessels, or a formal qualification in fishing operations.

The Certificate II and III in Fishing Operations are offered at TAFE colleges and other registered training organisations throughout Western Australia.

You can also complete a traineeship. The deckhand (fishing operations) and senior deckhand – fishing operations usually take between 12 to 24 months to complete. The deckhand (fishing operations) traineeship is available as a school-based traineeship.

To work on a domestic commercial vessel in Australia you will need to obtain a Certificate of Competency from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). Contact AMSA for more information.

To work in the commercial fishing industry in Western Australia you will need to obtain a commercial fishing licence. Contact the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development​ for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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