Overview of the role

Harvest fish and shellfish.

Details of standard

Occupation summary

This occupation is found in individually owned boats with small numbers of crew, up to company owned boats with large crews. They may operate inshore and offshore and use a range of catching methods. They use mobile and static gear, such as trawling, netting, potting and hand lining. Fishers work as part of a team. They may be at sea from a few hours at a time, up to a week. The type of boat, fishery and fishing method and gear being used will affect this.

Fishing is highly regulated and governed by complex fisheries management.

The broad purpose of the occupation is to sustainably harvest fish and shellfish. Fishing methods range from static gears such as shellfish pots through to modern, selective, high-tech trawl equipment. A fisher works as part of a team, both onshore and at sea. They are involved in the entire end-to-end process, through to transporting the catch to market to enable it to be sold. They set up the fishing gear and fit it to a boat and watch-keep on a navigational passage to and from fishing grounds. They deploy and retrieve gear. They may use onboard hydraulics and powered machinery. They catch, process, store and land the fish (or shellfish). Fishers also help look after the sea. They collect data for policy makers. This data informs plans for fishing, catch limits and quotas to ensure stocks remain sustainable. A Fisher adapts and improves processes to improve sustainability. They adapt to seasonal changes and vary their approach to catch different types of fish. They also adapt their approach in response to the sea, tides, and weather conditions.

A Fisher is likely to be involved in maintaining the boat. They can progress to roles such as: experienced deckhand mate, skipper of the boat, onboard marine engineer, onboard chef/ fisher on larger boats, fisheries science/ observer, gear technologist, offshore survey and energy worker. There are also opportunities to become self-employed and a boat owner. This is a rewarding occupation. It involves working outdoors and can be physically demanding.

In their daily work, an employee in this occupation interacts with the skipper, boat owners and crew members and fisheries observers. They may include: Enforcement officers, Port and authorities, Scientists and Safety advisors. Onshore, they may have contact with logistics companies, harbour staff and fish market employees.

An employee in this occupation will be responsible for complying with maritime and safety Regulations. They must use personal protective equipment and check that it has been maintained. They are likely to report to a skipper or boat owner. They need to follow instructions and react quickly and positively to feedback. They will work as part of a team, logging details of the catch and reporting them to the skipper or boat owner. This may include the species caught along with estimates of size and weight. This will enable the skipper and boat to comply with regulations and submit live catch data. They will have to solve problems on a daily basis, taking into account changing weather and sea conditions. They will suggest improvements to working practices to increase efficiency, improve safety and ensure sustainability. Extra requirements may be to help new crew members or carry out navigation duties. Any food preparation should be carried out considering basic food hygiene and the cleanliness of the boat should be maintained at all times.

Typical job titles include:

Commercial fisher Fisher Fisherman Fisherperson Sea fisher Sea fisherman

Entry requirements

Employers will set their own entry requirements depending on boat size, fishery, fishing method and operation. Typically, employers may require the individual to have the correct attitude and ability to take on the typical practical and solve problems onboard a boat. They are likely to seek individuals that have a willingness to work onboard a boat, sometimes in confined spaces for extended periods of time. Individuals are likely to have a sense of adventure and keenness for the outdoors. The employer may require the apprentice to be flexible and able to work a range of shifts across different days and times of the week.

Occupation duties

Duty KSBs

Duty 1 Prepare for sea. Carry out personal safety checks. Check weather and sea conditions. Acquire the necessary food, water and supplies for the trip.

K1 K2 K3

S1 S2

B1 B4 B5

Duty 2 Prepare the boat for sea. Carry out safety checks. Check the engine, fuel levels, and maintain and fit fishing gear. Obtain ice, bait and prepare deck and storage areas.

K4 K5 K6 K7 K25

S3 S4 S5

B1 B5

Duty 3 Carry out preventative maintenance of the boat under supervision. Including engineering, fish rooms, storage areas and hydraulics.

K8 K9 K16 K26

S3 S5 S6 S7

B1 B6

Duty 4 Shoot, haul and clear fish and/or shellfish using a range of fishing gears.


S8 S9

B1 B5

Duty 5 Contribute to maintaining a stable and safe deck and working area.

K4 K6 K7



Duty 6 Land, sort and grade the catch. Identify species. Release fish in line with regulations and quota requirements.

K11 K12


B1 B5

Duty 7 Collect fisheries data. Record the catch accurately and estimate the weight of the catch.


S10 S11

B1 B2 B3

Duty 8 Process and store the catch using ice and refrigeration to maintain a quality product.

K14 K15

S11 S12

B1 B2 B3

Duty 9 Troubleshoot to address problems with the boat and fishing gear.



B1 B2 B4

Duty 10 Watch-keep taking account of maritime regulations, weather, meteorology and forecasting.

K17 K18 K19 K26

S14 S15

B1 B4 B5 B6

Duty 11 Carry out ropework and line handling for mooring and berthing.

K20 K21


B1 B4

Duty 12 Operate communications equipment.


S17 S18


Duty 13 Carry out and take part in safety drills, to ensure safe working boat and crew. For example, man over-board recovery, deploy anchor.

K23 K27

S17 S18 S19


Duty 14 Unload the catch and take to market.



B1 B5



K1: Personal safety equipment including life rafts, life rings, wet weather gear, EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and floatation device requirements. How to report defects or request replacements. Back to Duty

K2: Conditions required to go to sea. The impact that forecast weather conditions have on preparations and how to obtain weather and sea information using software applications. Back to Duty

K3: Food and water supply requirements for the length of the trip. Back to Duty

K4: Safety checks, stowage, and maintenance requirements of boat safety equipment. Including: life rafts, life rings, EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). Back to Duty

K5: Basic engine checks: oil, water level checks and fuel required for the length of trip. Back to Duty

K6: The material requirements for repairs to fishing gear at sea and how to check the condition of fishing gear for damage. Back to Duty

K7: Quantity and safe stowage requirements for ice, depending on the fishery or type of boat. Back to Duty

K8: Refrigeration equipment operational checks. Back to Duty

K9: Common hydraulic faults, defects, and identification methods. Back to Duty

K10: Procedures to ensure the safe shooting and hauling of fishing gear and the importance of being in the correct position on board the boat. Back to Duty

K11: Species identification and how to sort and grade them for processing or return them to the sea in line with fisheries legislation. Back to Duty

K12: Technical conservation measures and their impact on the long-term sustainability of fishing stocks. Back to Duty

K13: Catch information and reporting requirements. How to estimate the weight of each species and the importance of accuracy. Back to Duty

K14: Processing requirements for each species: gutting, head off, whole, nicking, banding claws. Back to Duty

K15: Catch storage requirements to maintain quality. Back to Duty

K16: Common problems with the boat and how to identify them. For example, mechanical, electrical, watertight integrity, health and safety issues. Back to Duty

K17: The procedures for safely navigating and keeping watch when at sea. Including, latitude and longitude, steering by compass, position fixing, buoyage. Back to Duty

K18: The (Maritime Regulations) ‘rules of the road’ such as passing port to port and movement to and from port. Back to Duty

K19: Modern and traditional navigational technology: GPS, radar, auto pilot bridge navigation equipment, compass. Back to Duty

K20: Methods to tie up a boat depending on its size, location and the tide (including quayside and alongside another vessel). Back to Duty

K21: The knots and lengths of rope required to safely moor a boat. Back to Duty

K22: The operating requirements and terminology used to communicate with other boats and the coastguard using a VHF (Very High Frequency) radio. And how to issue a distress call. Back to Duty

K23: Safety procedures: man overboard, anchor, and fire drills. Back to Duty

K24: Requirements for safely unloading and transporting the catch to market whilst ensuring the quality of the catch is maintained. Back to Duty

K25: Housekeeping requirements at sea: the need to keep the work and living areas clean and free from obstruction and to practice good hygiene when preparing food. Back to Duty

K26: Climate change and the environmental impact of pollution on the fishing industry. Back to Duty

K27: Mental and physical health support services available. Back to Duty


S1: Check personal safety equipment for defects (including personal floatation device, wet weather gear and personal locator beacon). Back to Duty

S2: Check and acquire adequate food and water supplies for the length the trip. Back to Duty

S3: Carry out an inspection of the boat to ensure that safety equipment is in place, and check the engine maintenance record. Back to Duty

S4: Check that the deck is clear of obstructions and equipment is stowed away safely. Back to Duty

S5: Check ice is suitable for the length of trip. Back to Duty

S6: Inspect refrigeration/ storage facilities to ensure that it is operating correctly. Back to Duty

S7: Inspect hydraulic pipes for defects. Report findings. Back to Duty

S8: Prepare and shoot fishing gear. Back to Duty

S9: Prepare for and haul fishing gear. Back to Duty

S10: Identify the fish or shellfish species and sort them for processing. Release fish or shellfish in line with regulations. Back to Duty

S11: Estimate the weight of each species. Record the information and submit to the Skipper. Back to Duty

S12: Process species correctly (fish or shellfish). Store them to ensure quality. Back to Duty

S13: Identify and resolve problems with the boat and fishing gear (within level of authority). Back to Duty

S14: Keep watch and navigate the boat at sea (within level of authority), in line with Maritime Regulations (‘the rules of the road’). Back to Duty

S15: Navigate the boat using GPS, radar and auto pilot bridge navigation equipment (within level of authority). Back to Duty

S16: Tie up the boat taking into account the tide and weather conditions. Back to Duty

S17: Communicate with other stations or boats using VHF radio. Back to Duty

S18: Issue a distress alert. Back to Duty

S19: Follow safety procedures: man overboard, anchor drills, fire drills. Back to Duty

S20: Unload the catch for transport to market whilst maintaining catch quality. Back to Duty

S21: Prepare food for the crew and maintain cleanliness of living area. Back to Duty


B1: Prioritises health and safety when completing tasks. Back to Duty

B2: Considers sustainability throughout the end to end fishing process. Back to Duty

B3: Acts with honesty and integrity and takes responsibility for own actions. Back to Duty

B4: Proactively adapts to changing situations/ conditions. Back to Duty

B5: Team worker. For example, polite, keeps others informed, helps colleagues, takes account of equality and diversity. Back to Duty

B6: Seeks learning and development opportunities. Back to Duty


English and Maths

English and maths qualifications form a mandatory part of all apprenticeships and must be completed before an apprentice can pass through gateway. The requirements are detailed in the current version of the apprenticeship funding rules.

Other mandatory qualifications

Complete basic training approved by any Maritime Administration which is signatory to the Seafarers Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) convention. • 1 day Seafish Fishermen’s basic sea survival or STCW Personal Survival Techniques (1 day) (STCW A-VI/1)

Level: 2

1 day Seafish Fishermen’s basic firefighting and prevention or 2 day STCW Fire Fighting and Fire Prevention (STCW A-VI/1-2)

Level: 2

1 day Seafish Fishermen’s basic first aid or STCW Elementary First Aid (1 day) (STCW A-VI/1-3)

Level: 2

1 day Seafish basic health and safety covering: know your vessel, understanding roles and responsibilities, maintaining effectiveness, working safely on a fishing vessel, dealing with emergencies.

Level: 2

Certificated 5 day Seafish Navigation and Watchkeeping course

Level: 2

Certificated 5 day Marine Coastguard Agency (MCA) Approved Engine Course Diesel Engine course (AEC 1)

Level: 2

Certificated 1 day Seafish Stability Awareness for Experienced Fishermen course

Level: 2

Certificated 1 day Seafish Advanced Stability Awareness course

Level: 2

Certificated Royal Yacht Association (RYA) GMDSS VHF Short Range Certificate (Radio Operator)

Level: 2

Professional recognition

This standard aligns with the following professional recognition:

  • National Federation of Fisherman’s Organisation (NFFO) for Individual membership

Additional details

Occupational Level:


Duration (months):



this apprenticeship will be reviewed in accordance with our change request policy.

Status: Approved for delivery
Level: 2
Reference: ST0952
Version: 1.0
Date updated: 15/02/2023
Approved for delivery: 1 July 2021
Route: Agriculture, environmental and animal care
Typical duration to gateway: 18 months
Typical EPA period: 2 months
Maximum funding: £10000
LARS Code: 640
EQA Provider: Ofqual
Employers involved in creating the standard: 14 individual fishing vessel owners, The Cornish Fish Producers’ Organisation Ltd (CFPO), National Federation Fishermans Organisation, Seafood Cornwall Training

Version log

Version Change detail Earliest start date Latest start date Latest end date
1.0 Approved for delivery 01/07/2021 Not set Not set

Crown copyright © 2024. You may re-use this information (not including logos) free of charge in any format or medium, under the terms of the Open Government Licence. Visit www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence

Is this webpage useful?

Thank you for your feedback

Tell us about your experience