Indian marine fisheries has a long history of development from its subsistence fisheries during the pre 1950’s to full fledged modernized industrial activities of the present time. The highlight of this development activity in the marine sector was mechanization and motorization of the traditional crafts during the early years of independent India.  With the increasing outlay in the successive five year Plans, many developments took place in Indian marine fisheries sector and the methodology of catch has also undergone sea-change over the years with the introduction of modernized crafts, gears, fish finders and other modern scientific equipments. These improved new crafts needed an altogether different kind of technical expertise as operations of engine/motor/winches are involved and there was also the need for related focus on vocational training to all categories of crew on board. 

In the meantime the Merchant Shipping Act had also stipulated statutory requirement of competent certified hands for manning ocean going fishing vessels.  The Government of India, in 1959, constituted a Committee on “Fisheries Education” for assessing the manpower requirements of the fisheries sector and to suggest measures for building up trained manpower for promoting fishery developmental activities.  CIFNET (earlier known as Central Institute of Fisheries Operatives), was thus established in 1963 on the recommendation of above mentioned Committee to meet the statutory manning requirements of deep sea fishing vessels as laid down in the Merchant Shipping Act (1958) and skilled personnel required by the supporting shore installations. The Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Act 1987 stipulated that all fishing vessels with mechanical propulsion are required to be manned by duly certified personnel, so that the diversification of fishing and development of deep sea fisheries could be effectively implemented with adequate trained manpower capable of effectively handling the type and class of vessels. The name of the institute was later upgraded consistent with its functions as ‘Central Institute of Fisheries Nautical & Engineering Training’ (CIFNET). Subsequently, two units of the Institute were established at Chennai in 1968 and at Visakhapatnam in 1981 for meeting the additional requirement of manpower necessitated by the expansion of the fishing fleet.

CIFNET is the only national institute of its kind in the country to meet the training requirements of technical and certified personnel such as Skippers, Mates, Engineers, Engine Drivers of power fishing vessels as stipulated in the M.S. (Amendment) Act. 1987. The institute functions with three ocean going fishery training vessels at the three centers.

The institute conducts various courses viz., Bachelor of Fisheries Science (Nautical Science) of 4 year duration approved and affiliated by Cochin University of Science & Technology, Kochi recognized by UGC. Two trade courses, Vessel Navigator Course (VNC) & Marine Fitter Course (MFC) of 2 year duration approved by Ministry of Labour, affiliated to National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT). The institute conducts various Short term training programmes for the benefit of fishermen, officials of sister organizations, fisheries departments of the States Governments, coast guard officials, students from professional colleges, etc. and extension programmes for fishermen.