Water Bailiff/Fisheries Officer

The Job and What's Involved

Water bailiffs/fisheries officers maintain lakes and rivers and their fish stocks for legitimate recreational use. As part of the work, they face the challenges of dealing with ecological problems and breaches of the law.

Their role can be quite varied, depending on the employer and where they are located in the UK. A water bailiff/fisheries officer may be expected to:

  • Monitor the quality of the water, the welfare of fish and the habitat.
  • Carry out surveys of fish, insect and plant life to measure the effects of pollution.
  • Assess damage caused by any pollution and identify its source.
  • Maintain fish hatcheries, where appropriate, and identify areas where restocking may be of benefit.
  • Look out for erosion and, where necessary, arrange for the reconstruction of river banks with due consideration for conservation and aquatic life.
  • Identify areas where stocks have been depleted by over fishing.
  • Liaise with local landowners, farmers, representatives of conservation organisations and scientists.
  • Inspect rod licences or fishery permits and enforce regulation, where applicable.

The law relating to fisheries differs significantly between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, water bailiffs perform a similar function to the role carried out by gamekeepers on land, looking out for poachers and other lawbreakers. They have powers of search and arrest similar to those of police officers. They also undertake the following duties:

  • Enforcing the fisheries legislation within the area of operation.
  • Patrolling the area within their jurisdiction to monitor any illegal fishing activity.
  • Confiscating illegally caught fish and fishing tackle.
  • Checking the kind of bait and general methods used by anglers to ensure that these are not in breach of legislation.
  • Stopping, boarding and searching boats and vehicles suspected of being used for the illegal taking of salmon and trout.
  • Challenging those committing an offence and, if necessary, arresting them.
  • Liaising with planning authorities to discourage commercial encroachment on the riverbank.
  • Preparing reports and witness statements and acting as a prosecution witness in court.

The powers and duties available to Scottish water bailiffs are restricted in England to those officers who have been appointed (granted a warrant) by the Environment Agency.

Water bailiffs/fisheries officers' core working hours are normally around 39 hours a week. However, they may work longer hours, including night shifts and weekends. In some locations, shifts are organised to cover every day of the year. Part-time and seasonal work is also possible.

Much of the work involves patrolling a specified, often remote area by car, boat or on foot in all weather conditions.

The job may involve some heavy physical work and, on occasions, the pursuit of offenders over rough ground. Bailiffs often have to wade in cold, flowing water wearing waterproofs, rubber boots or waders and lifejackets.

A full driving licence is usually required.

Starting salaries may be around £14,500 a year. With more experience, water bailiffs/fisheries officers may earn around £26,500 a year.

If promoted to a management post, water bailiffs/fisheries officers may earn £29,000 or more.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are job opportunities across the UK. In recent years, there has been a slight decline in the number of water bailiff jobs in England. More water bailiffs work in Scotland than in any other UK country and job opportunities are increasing. There is strong competition for jobs throughout the UK.

In England, the Environment Agency employs fisheries officers to look after the waterways and surrounding areas. Some private water bailiffs carry out work for angling clubs, often on a voluntary basis.

Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers and on the websites of the Environment Agency and Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB). They are also advertised on the Countryside Jobs Service website.

Education and Training

In England, there are no set educational qualifications for fisheries officers.

The Diploma in environmental and land-based studies may be advantageous.

All applicants for water bailiff or fisheries officer work must pass a thorough medical examination. Many entrants have previous experience of angling as a hobby. Working as a voluntary water bailiff for an angling club may lead to a paid position in some cases.

The entry requirements for this job role may vary in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Contact the Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM) for further information.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

The IFM organises correspondence courses leading to Certificates in Fisheries Management and in Fish Farming and a Diploma in Fisheries Management. These qualifications are recognised by many employers and entitle their holder to professional status within the Institute.

The Certificate in Fisheries Management provides knowledge to the level required for those working towards a career as a supervisory water bailiff or fisheries inspector. It also provides a sound knowledge for those interested in running their own fisheries.

The Diploma course is at a more advanced level and provides the knowledge for those aspiring to become fisheries managers in the water industry.

The units studied include:

- Freshwater biology
- Water quality and fish propagation
- Bailiffing duties
- Fishery maintenance and improvement
- Fishing methods
- Fisheries management, law and administration
- Fish husbandry
- Fish disease
- Recreation and amenity

There are also other qualifications that can be undertaken, such as BTEC First Certificates and Diplomas in fisheries management. These are available at a number of colleges throughout the country.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A water bailiff/fisheries officer should:

  • Know the basics of how aquatic and neighbouring ecosystems maintain themselves.
  • Be aware of the main environmental threats facing waterways.
  • Know about fish biology and diseases.
  • Have a good understanding of fishery law at local, national and EU level.
  • Have a good awareness of health and safety issues.
  • Have a friendly, firm and polite manner with members of the public.
  • Be assertive enough to challenge poachers, polluters and other offenders.
  • Be able to complete reports and maintain accurate records.
  • Have the skills to bear witness in court.
  • Be able to work alone and as part of a small team.
  • Be committed to protecting the environment and enjoy working outdoors.
  • Be able to meet the physical demands of the job and be able to swim.

Your Long Term Prospects

It may be possible within the Environment Agency to become a team leader or manager.

Water bailiffs can also move into related work in the environmental sector such as fish farming.

Get Further Information

Countryside Jobs Service,
The Moorlands, Goathland,
Whitby, North Yorkshire YO22 5LZ
Tel: 01947 896007
Website: www.countryside-jobs.com

Environment Agency,
PO Box 544, Rotherham S60 1BY
Tel: 0870 850 6506
Website: www.environment-agency.gov.uk

Lantra, Lantra House,
Stoneleigh Park, Coventry,
Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 0845 707 8007
Websites: www.lantra.co.uk and www.lantracoursefinder.co.uk

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