NOAA Fisheries Certifies Florida’s Gulf Reef Fish Survey Design

April 11, 2019

The Gulf Reef Fish Survey produces private boat catch estimates for a suite of reef fish species, and will supplement the general surveys managed by the Marine Recreational Information Program.

Greater amberjack caught on Florida's Oriskany Reef. Photo by Amanda Nalley/Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Florida’s Gulf Reef Fish Survey produces private boat catch estimates for reef fish species (Photo credit: Amanda Nalley/FWC).

On December 18, 2018, NOAA Fisheries certified the design of Florida’s Gulf Reef Fish Survey (GRFS). This state-led survey to supplement the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) was developed and implemented to provide private boat catch estimates for important reef fish species in Florida that are more timely and precise for use in fisheries management. The collection of accurate recreational fisheries data is a priority for NOAA Fisheries.

Since 2013, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, NOAA Fisheries, and a team of independent experts have worked together to develop, test, review, and refine the GRFS design.

The GRFS includes two new survey components: a mail survey of Gulf reef fish anglers, which collects data on their reef fish trips, and a specialized shoreside survey of designated “reef fish sites,” which collects data on angler catches. To make the best use of available data, the GRFS dockside survey is integrated with the more general MRIP Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS) so that all reef fish catch data can be used in estimating the number of reef fish caught and the number of trips that targeted them. The GRFS produces catch estimates for a suite of reef fish species, including red snapper, gag, red grouper, black grouper, vermilion snapper, gray triggerfish, greater amberjack and other jack species.

Florida’s new survey design is now eligible for federal funding, pending availability, to support implementation efforts as well as ongoing improvements. Survey design certification will help better define and prioritize the data collection needs outlined in the Gulf of Mexico Regional Implementation Plan, a document created for MRIP by the regional state-federal partners. After a transition plan is developed that addresses (1) how to best combine information from this supplemental survey with the general MRIP surveys and (2) how to best adjust historical estimates based solely on the general MRIP surveys to be consistent with new estimates based on the integrated approach, estimates from this survey can then be used for federal scientific stock assessments and fishery management.

The GRFS is one of several Gulf of Mexico surveys developed by the states with MRIP technical support. Mississippi's Tails n’ Scales and Alabama's Snapper Check surveys supplement the general MRIP surveys and provide more precise catch estimates for the short-season Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery. After working with both states on the development of their survey designs, NOAA Fisheries certified Tails n’ Scales in June 2018 and Snapper Check in August 2018. In December 2017, NOAA Fisheries announced the certification of the Louisiana Creel (LA Creel) general survey designs as statistically valid for monitoring recreational catches of all species within the state.

NOAA Fisheries will continue to collaborate with Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute to refine the state’s survey design and evaluate how changes made in response to peer review recommendations improve the performance of the survey. Supporting the development and certification of new survey designs demonstrates MRIP’s commitment to collaborating with state and regional partners to meet unique data needs and advance recreational fishing data collection efforts to ensure fishing opportunities for generations to come.