The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science is looking for TWO Fisheries Observers.

Reference number: 321344

Salary: £25,915 – £27,116. There is a pay award pending as Cefas is yet to finalise and implement the Civil Service Pay Remit 2023/2024. Civil Service Pay Remit Guidance, 2023 to 2024 – GOV.UK ( A Civil Service Pension with an average employer contribution of 27%

Contract type: Permanent

Working pattern: Flexible working, Full-time, Job share, Part-time

Location: Hayle, Plymouth

You will be a member of a highly motivated and committed team of observers who are based at port offices throughout England, delivering important scientific work required under UK legislation.

Your main duties will be to record the numbers of fish and shellfish which are retained and discarded onboard English registered fishing vessels during normal commercial fishing operations. Access to fishing vessels is on a voluntary basis and you will be required to negotiate access with vessel operators. You will also be required to undertake biological sampling of fish and shellfish landings at various ports in England. You will work regularly at sea on commercial fishing vessels, sailing from various ports to schedules determined by the fishing boat skippers (typically 50-80 days at sea per year with scope for more), and with shore-based industry sectors, such as fish markets and merchants. This work will require significant travel and regular lone working during unsocial hours, at weekends and at short notice. A flexible approach to working is essential. Additional payments are made for work undertaken at sea and during unsociable hours.

A comprehensive training programme will be provided. Once competent, and sampling effectively without supervision, the successful applicant will be expected to provide training for new staff. During your training period you will be required to pass an ENG1 medical and complete basic sea safety training.

Cefas is proud of a diverse and inclusive work environment, committed to fairness and the promotion of equality of opportunity for all. We know that having a range of experiences, backgrounds, ways of working and thinking, makes us a stronger organisation, better at reflecting the communities we serve. We embrace different views and experiences and value the fresh perspective that people from a variety of circumstances bring to the work we do. We welcome applications from candidates who have not previously worked for the Civil Service, mid- and late-career changers with transferable skills, people from all backgrounds and circumstances regardless of disability, gender, age, ethnicity, LGBT+ identity and socio-economic status.

Job description

Your main duties and responsibilities will include, but are not limited to:

  • Establishing and maintaining good relations with the fishing industry
  • Negotiating access to sample fishing vessels
  • Planning and undertaking regular sampling trips (duration 1 to 8 days) onboard commercial fishing vessels, sailing from ports across England
  • Carrying out catch sampling at sea, during normal commercial practice, to estimate quantities of discarded and retained catch
  • Planning and undertaking detailed biological sampling of fish/shellfish landings at fishing ports across England
  • Obtaining otoliths and scales from fish samples
  • Adhering to and promoting safety measures in the field and office
  • Entering data into databases, data checking and QC and timely delivery of data to end users
  • Participate in other projects as required e.g., fishing gear technology
  • Assisting in fisheries surveys aboard commercial fishing vessels and research vessels where necessary
  • Contributing to production of reports

In addition, Cefas reserves the right to ask staff to take on additional duties and responsibilities which are commensurate with their grade. Team Leaders and management will have a discussion with staff to explain the changes that are to be made. A new job description will be issued if required.

Person specification

Applicants should be highly motivated, target driven individuals with good communications skills, both verbal and written. A keen interest in collecting good fisheries data is essential as the job can be challenging at times. As this role must work around the fishing industry, both onshore and at sea, applicants must be willing to work unsociable hours and weekends. You will be required to travel across England and Wales on a weekly basis using a pool van.

The following are essential criteria required for this role and you must be able to demonstrate your skills and experience in the following areas:

  • Knowledge of the UK fishing industry
  • Experience of working at sea, in different sea conditions, ideally on commercial fishing vessels
  • Willingness and ability to work flexibly at unsociable hours, in challenging weather and environmental conditions, and without supervision
  • Ability to conduct physical and precise scientific fieldwork at sea and on land with good attention to detail
  • Knowledge and a keen awareness of health and safety, with specific experience of safety at sea and vessel safety
  • Ability to follow protocols and procedures to consistently and accurately record numerical and other data
  • Ability to identify different fish species found in UK waters
  • Self-motivated and self-reliant with a keenness to meet targets
  • Good IT skills, experience of data entry into databases and undertaking data quality assurance checks
  • Academic qualifications required are a degree in a scientific subject and/or relevant experience of working within the fishing industry


Full driving licence (valid for driving in the UK)

Technical skills

We’ll assess you against these technical skills during the selection process:

  • Experience of working at sea (Lead technical skill)
  • Ability to identify UK fish species of commercial importance
  • Ability to demonstrate an understanding of representative sampling and subsampling techniques
  • Knowledge of fishing vessels and/or gear types

We only ask for evidence of these technical skills on your application form:

  • Experience of working at sea (Lead technical skill)


Alongside your salary of £25,915, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science contributes £6,997 towards you being a member of the Civil Service Defined Benefit Pension scheme. Find out what benefits a Civil Service Pension provides.

  • Generous annual leave entitlement – Cefas offers 25 days’ annul leave on entry (rising to 30 days over first 5yrs) for full-time new entrants to the Civil Service. Employees receive 8 public holidays a year, plus an additional day to mark the late Queen’s birthday
  • Access to learning and development tailored to your role
  • A working environment that supports a range of flexible working options
  • A working culture which encourages inclusion and diversity
  • Eligible to join the Civil Service Pension scheme – more information can be found on the CSP website Home – Civil Service Pension Scheme
  • Staff recognition vouchers
  • In-year award scheme

Closing date: Apply before 11:55pm on Monday 29 November 2023.

Apply here.


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