Fishing Vessel Skipper

Job Description:

Fishing vessel skippers are in charge of the crew onboard sea-going fishing boats.

Job Category:
Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing

What you will do:

Fishing vessel skippers work on different types of boat, including:

  • 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

In your day-to-day duties you may:

  • plan fishing voyages
  • operate and maintain equipment
  • navigate the vessel
  • manage the safety of the vessel and crew
  • work closely with onshore agents to land and sell the catch
  • make sure that fishing trips return a profit
  • make sure that each fishing trip follows maritime laws and international fishing regulations
  • use electronic systems for navigation, locating fish and monitoring onboard storage conditions


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of transport methods, costs and benefits
  • knowledge of public safety and security
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

As well as:

  • leadership skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • the ability to use your initiative (drive)
  • physical skills like movement, coordination and dexterity
  • the ability to use your judgement and make decisions
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

You can get into this job through:

  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role

If you are 16 to 19 you could start off as a fishing boat deckhand. You can do a Diploma in Sea Fishing while getting experience at sea through a fishing industry college.

When you have experience you can learn and train on the job to go on to become a skipper.

Advanced apprenticeships relevant to this role include:

  • Workboat crewmember
  • Boatmaster
  • Officer of the watch

These apprenticeships typically take 24 months to complete as a mix of learning in the workplace and off-the-job study.

You can start as a deckhand at sea and learn on the job. You’ll usually need around 18 months’ experience before you can skipper a boat. You’ll also need to have completed mandatory basic safety training for:

  • sea survival
  • fire fighting
  • health and safety
  • first aid

You’ll need to:

  • complete basic sea safety training – STCW – approved by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency
  • pass a medical check

Working Hours and Environment:

Your working environment may be physically demanding, outdoors in all weathers and cramped.

You may need to wear protective clothing.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience and further training you may be able to move into related career areas like:

  • the Merchant Navy
  • harbour tug work
  • fish farming
  • offshore oil or gas exploration
  • offshore sustainable energy development
  • cargo or passenger ferry operations
  • deck or engineering officer roles