We are Ono and Nora, fish veterinarians primarily for aquaculture. We worked together for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and both sit on the board for the American Association of Fish Veterinarians (AAFV). Now Ono works as a Veterinarian and Key Account & Fish Health Manager for AquaTactics Bimeda.
Finding your way as a fish veterinarian is not easy or as clear-cut as other avenues for this profession. Some schools have specific tracks but most of the time you forge your own path and seek out mentors and externship experiences to get the contacts for your own career development.
Oftentimes in fish medicine you are being interviewed for jobs by non-veterinary personnel so they will often ask about your experience with specific species but not really understand how much of veterinary training emphasizes comparative medicine
Compensation, especially for government entities or public practice, can be a big problem - it is getting better but make sure you negotiate for what your worth and what you can bring to the job.
Fish medicine tends to lend itself to a very good quality of life and schedule. The industry is really moving towards using more veterinarians rather than fish pathologists for this role and the hatchery managers really are appreciating the difference.
Nora: I wake up pretty early and mostly am doing a lot of driving to my aquaculture sites. I get my boots on and am doing wellness checks and checking in with the hatchery managers to build good relationships and solve problems for them. It is pretty similar to doing farm calls as a dairy vet but without the threats of being kicked and being on call overnights.
Ono: At my new position, I am getting to do a lot of traveling and flying around the country. I love getting to work with new types of fish and lots of different types of aquaculture setups and training on autogenous vaccines. I routinely will also get sick fish shipped to my lab for workup. I am learning a lot and feel very supported and able to advance and grow in my career and my medicine.
We both love helping the hatcheries with spawning. You really get to feel like you're part of the team and playing an integral role in the salmon life cycle. We enjoy being outside (even on cold mornings!) and in the weather solving problems and handling the fish. After all, it really is all about the fish.
If you are a veterinary professional with interest in developing fish medicine in practice or seeking a career path within aquaculture, the AAFV website has resources to help including courses, job boards and upcoming CE events for fish medicine.