How to become a Fishing Vessel Skipper. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Fishing Vessel Skipper do?
Fishing vessel skippers are in overall charge of boats that catch fish at sea. They work on the following types of boat:
- inshore vessels, which fish close to the shoreline
- limited area vessels, which fish within a set area around the UK coast
- unlimited area vessels, working in distant fishing grounds in international waters.
As a skipper, your responsibilities would include:
- planning fishing voyages
- operating and maintaining equipment
- navigating the vessel
- safety and management of the vessel and crew
- working closely with onshore agents to land and sell the catch
- making sure that fishing trips return a profit.
You would also be responsible for making sure that each fishing trip follows maritime laws and international fishing regulations.
You could work on fishing vessels ranging from small, single-handed boats to large factory trawlers. Most modern vessels use electronic systems for navigation, locating fish and monitoring onboard storage conditions.
Your working hours would vary according to which fishing areas you work in, but would usually involve long hours, including shifts and sharing the ‘watches’.
In inshore waters, you would usually return from sea each day. If you work farther afield, around the UK coast or more distant grounds, you could be away for anything from several days to weeks or months at a time.
You would also spend some time onshore, repairing nets and maintaining the vessel.
Your time would be split between working on the bridge and on deck. You would work in all weathers and sometimes in hazardous conditions, such as freezing weather, storms and gales. Conditions onboard would depend on the type and age of your vessel.
How much does a Fishing Vessel Skipper earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Earnings can be between £14,000 and £27,000 a year, depending on the size of catches and their value.
- On bigger vessels owned by larger companies, earnings could be up to £67,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You would need previous experience as a deckhand to work as a skipper. Good hearing and eyesight and normal colour vision are also essential.
To be a limited area skipper, working around the UK coastline, you should be at least 20 years old. To be an unlimited area skipper, fishing beyond UK coastal waters, you must be at least 21.
For all areas, you would need to take the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) approved Basic Safety Training. This is made up of four one-day courses covering sea survival, first aid, fire fighting, and health and safety.
You may be able to get into this career through an Apprenticeship scheme with a fishing crew and work your way up to skippering a vessel. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. For more information, visit the Apprenticeships website.
Visit the Seafish Industry Authority website for more information about careers and qualifications in the fishing industry.
Training and Development
Once you are working, you could complete the Seafish Inshore Skipper’s certificate.
For skippering in limited or unlimited waters, you would need to pass an oral exam and complete a Certificate of Competency (CoC):
- limited area – Deck Officer (Fishing Vessel) Certificate of Competency Class 2
- unlimited area – Deck Officer (Fishing Vessel) Certificate of Competency Class 1.
You can find more details about relevant qualifications, plus a wide range of resources, including training manuals, distance learning materials and videos on the Seafish Industry Authority website.
Skills and Knowledge
- a knowledge of the sea and weather patterns
- an understanding of electronics and basic engineering
- knowledge of British and international fishing vessel regulations
- the ability to lead and manage a team working in often difficult conditions
- a responsible attitude to the crew’s and your own safety
- calmness under pressure
- the confidence to make quick decisions in emergency situations
- first aid skills
- a good level of fitness and stamina
- business awareness.
The UK fishing industry is mainly based around the Scottish islands, the east coast of Scotland and England and the south-west.
Most skippers are self-employed boat owners or partners, although there are opportunities with larger companies that own boats and employ skippers.
As an experienced skipper, you may be able to move into related careers, such as the Merchant Navy, harbour tug work, fish farming, oil or gas exploration, cargo operations or ferries.