Ready to wet your feet? Fisheries science offers exciting opportunities.

Imagine this life in college. You choose from an array of 60-plus subjects under departments like Aquaculture, Fisheries Biology, Fisheries Environment, Fishing Technology, Fisheries Engineering.

In each semester you do 5-7 courses. In the 7th semester (final year) it’s all experiential learning: in different groups you try your hand at aqua-culture or fish processing. In the next six months you get RAWE (Rural Awareness Work Experience) where with college funds and infrastructure you rear, sell fish and keep the profit. In the 8th semester you get attached to a private/State aqua-culture farm for industry internships, overseas training. The IV-year syllabus contains practical experience like sea cruise for Data Collection & Fishing. Excellent lab facilities are available for individual projects.

Sounds good? Then join the Fisheries College and Research Institute (FCRI), Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, or apply to a number of fisheries colleges under State agricultural universities. You can complete UG, PG and Ph.D in the same campus and come out assured of a job, avenues for research or private business.

Lively option

Waves of enthusiasm washed in from those who spoke on fisheries science education. “Studying fish is a lively subject,” said Dr. R Prabakaran, VC, TANUVAS. “You get total involvement in what you learn, and a sense of achievement. Meritorious students in UG go to Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, China for field-study. Study Biology/Botany-Zoology in the 12th, and apply for a degree in Fisheries.”

A new university is already up at Nagapattinam he said, and your application may have to be directed there. The Nagapattinam university will no doubt be a breeding ground for new fisheries colleges and more seats.

As for jobs, the new university will need manpower. You can apply for government jobs or in aqua-based companies. In inland fisheries/aqua culture, India stays at the number two spot. Nearly 30 per cent of the total fish products are exported. In fisheries our annual rate growth is higher than in the industrial sector. All this is good news for students. In research, new disease-free varieties of prawn are being bred. Bio-flock technology tackles problems of pollution. Ornamental fish culturing in marine water has enormous export potential. And there is the crab/lobster cage culture. “We have natural resources for successful research and Tamil Nadu will be leading in Fisheries Science education in the years to come,” said Dr. Prabakaran.

Water treasures

“The chance to explore the unknown and fascination for marine life and biodiversity took me to FCRI,” said Ananya Ashok, IV-year student, FCRI. “It's a specialised area of study, a different career path.” Most students aim for the Junior Research Fellowship awarded by ICAR for their Master’s, she added.

The Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE) at Mumbai is generally preferred for PG. The Professional Fisheries Graduates Forum (PFGF) conducts a national-level talent search and recognises a passing-out student as the ‘Best Fisheries Graduate of the Year’.

Several scholarships are yours to take, and after clearing the National Entrance Test, postgraduates could choose to become scientists with the Agricultural Research Service.

“I always had a fascination for agricultural sciences,” said Dr. D. Sukumar, Professor, FCRI. “And I realised there is need to look to the oceans/seas/fresh water for food security. Food now has to be produced through the aquatic system.” When his batch (III) completed the course, there were opportunities to teach and he grabbed it. “My friends and classmates from FCRI who joined the State fisheries department are now Jt. Directors,” he said.

Not expensive

“I was about to join B. Pharm at MMC, watched the dean talk of excellent opportunities in the Fisheries sector and I made the switch,” said I. Sivaraman, Ph.D Scholar-INSPIRE Fellow, Institute of Fisheries Education. “You learn how fish live in the wild, how to raise them in controlled conditions, how to process and export them to countries like USA, Japan.” The course is not expensive, he said. First graduates in families get total fee waiver, and government fellowships are available. “I got more fellowship money than what I paid.”

Fisheries is a sunshine sector in India, he said. India is equipping its research and administrative capacities in its various sub-sectors. “For the next decade we can be sure of regular government vacancies in central and State sectors. There is hardly any competition in fisheries jobs. Many of the African/Gulf fish-processing firms are occupied by Tamil BFScians. We are sought-after in European research institutes. Those who go abroad for Ph.D, have settled in well-paid jobs.”

Do you have what it takes? You need passion for water, be ready to wet your feet, said Dr. Sukumar. On board fishing vessels you will learn navigation, fishing technology and marine biology. And will get used to sea-sickness. It’s a holistic course. “You need the aptitude to work with living organisms rather than machines,” said Dr. Sivaraman. “This is more challenging and adventurous. Here you can create your own paths by swimming against the stream. Try research careers, take up new avenues. This is the renaissance period in the sector. Talented guys can transform it.”

Career options

Apply for BFSc (Bachelor of Fisheries Science) after 10 + 2 with PCB (Physics, Biology, Chemistry) group. It’s a 4-year course. A special quota exists for successful candidates of ICAR entrance exam/fellowship.

For an MFSc (2 years) in Central Institutes. Take the all-India Common Entrance Test conducted by ICAR, New Delhi.

State Government Fisheries Departments absorb graduates for posts of AFDO/ FEO/District Fisheries Development Officer.

Central Government jobs are in MPEDA, Fisheries Survey of India ( FSI ), NIO, WHO, FAO, NACA, NABARD, EIA.

Academic institutes welcome Research Assistants, Biochemists, Biologists, Technicians, and so on. Candidates with MFSc can become Assistant Professors.

For recruitment as scientists in various agricultural and fisheries institutions under the ICAR, ASRB conducts an all-India ARS exam, followed by viva-voce.

In banks, fisheries graduates can get jobs as a field-officer, managers in agriculture loan section.

You can start an enterprise like feed manufacturing, ornamental fish culture, aquaculture, hatchery/seed production, commercial pearl production, fish processing, net-making fish clinics. Financial support can be obtained through NABARD/nationalised banks.

In the private sector, you can work as officers in seafood processing/export units, aquafeed plants, fishing gear industries, pharmaceutical companies. Skilled manpower is needed in design/ construction/ management of fish farms.

You could participate in deep sea exploration or apply for overseas jobs.