A career as a fish vet

Pete Southgate
What made you become a fish vet?

I wanted to do something a bit different; aquaculture in the UK was taking off and I was keen that vets should be as involved in fish as in any other sector.

How did you get to where you are today?

After a few years in general practice, I had the opportunity to take the MSc in aquatic veterinary studies at Stirling University and, having done that, I spent about six years in its Institute of Aquaculture Diagnostic Unit before I became a freelance fish vet. In the mid-1990s a couple of my fish vet colleagues decided to form a dedicated fish vet practice, which I joined, and things have developed from there. We provide a global dedicated veterinary service to aquaculture, fisheries, exhibition fish and so on. We have an amazing diversity within the group covering clinical services, environmental impact, fish welfare, teaching, auditing – ooh, loads of things!

What advice would you give someone considering a similar career?

Get some experience of the business before taking the plunge. It's a bit different from what you might expect.

What do you like about your job?

The diversity of the work. The people I work with. The lack of weekend and night work.

What do you not like?

Although it is good to work all over the world, the travelling can get a bit tiring.

Why is your job important?

Fish are a vastly important global resource. There are many concerns about the future of this resource and how we handle it. It is imperative that our profession is involved in ensuring the health and welfare and the sustainable future of our fish stocks.

"It is imperative that our profession is involved in ensuring the health and welfare and the sustainable future of our fish stocks"

How do you spend a typical day?

One day I may be working on a shrimp farm in Vietnam or Madagascar, and on another day I might be trimming the teeth of a puffer fish in a public aquarium. I always try to catch PopMaster on Radio 2 though.

What's the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Always check that there is a sufficiency of toilet paper before proceeding.

What was your proudest moment?

I'm proud of the fact that we have been able to get fish welfare on the agenda and that fish welfare is now taken seriously by the veterinary profession, the aquaculture industry and by government. I honestly believe that over the past two decades we have made a difference. I am also very proud of the work we do in the BVA Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF), particularly the work with the animal welfare lectureships at some of the vet schools. BVA AWF is the vets' own animal welfare charity and needs to be strongly supported by the profession. It's a great opportunity to show that vets can be the leaders in animal welfare.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Working in Libya, I was being driven through the Tripoli Safari Park when I suffered an attack of explosive acute diarrhoea (a theme is developing here). Because of the animals we were not able to open the windows or get out of the Land Rover and we all had to suffer the consequences for the next two hours.

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