Aquaculture is the process of raising fish and other aquatic life in controlled environments, as opposed to commercial fishing, which is the practice of catching fish and aquatic life from the wild. An aquaculturist is a person who works at an aquaculture facility and manages the operation of the facility. This person is a participant in the wider marine biology field, and he or she will have a solid understanding and background with training concerning aquatic life, marine ecosystems, fishing and farming practices, and common environmental and bureaucratic issues concerning aquaculture. An aquaculturist will need to earn at least a bachelor's degree, and very often a master's degree or PhD, in order to work in the field.
Not surprisingly, an aquaculturist must live or at least work near a water source. This may mean freshwater ponds and lakes are used to create the aquaculture facility, or even oceans for saltwater environments. Some facilities are completely artificial and are enclosed within a specially designed structure, which means that facility does not necessarily need to be near a natural water source. Independent companies may open such facilities to farm fish for sale at markets, while other facilities may conduct research on various ecosystems and behaviors. An aquaculturist can work in any of these facilities and many more, depending on that person's career and research goals.
Part of the job duties of an aquaculturist include monitoring the health of fish and take note of the overall safety of the water. In this sense, an aquaculturist is a scientist conducting constant research on a particular ecosystem, whether natural or manmade. In other settings, the aquaculturist is more of a farmer, raising and harvesting fish and preparing them for sale. He or she may even interact with potential clients, thereby acting as a salesman for the fishery or other aquacultural setting.
It is likely that aquaculturists will need to know how to operate some heavy machinery, and they may even be responsible for repairing or maintaining the machinery as well. This is usually not a main function of the job, but since many of these professionals work in settings that do not provide a significant amount of support staff, aquaculturists must be adaptable and prepared for different types of work. If the aquaculture facility is on a natural body of water, professionals in the field may also need to be able to operate various sizes of boats.