NOAA Fisheries Recommends Source of Recreational Catch Statistics for Assessing Gulf Reef Fish Stocks

August 07, 2019

The suggested path forward is the only option capable of producing catch estimates that can be compared across the historical time series.

A recreational angler holds a vermilion snapper.

A recreational angler holds a vermilion snapper caught on a fishing trip to Oriskany Reef. (Amanda Nalley/Florida FWC)

At its August 26, 2019, meeting, the Southeast Data, Assessment, and Review (SEDAR) Steering Committee will discuss a region-specific white paper (PDF, 31 pages) that documents NOAA Fisheries’ recommended path forward regarding the most appropriate source of marine recreational catch statistics for the upcoming assessment of gray triggerfish, vermilion snapper, and other Gulf of Mexico reef fish stocks.

At present, seven surveys are available to estimate recreational catch in the Gulf of Mexico: four general surveys that monitor catch of all finfish species encountered, and three specialized, state-specific surveys that monitor catch of certain species by anglers fishing in certain modes. Because some of these surveys have produced different catch estimates, questions have been raised about how the data they collect should be used in fisheries science.

The accurate assessment of stocks requires catch estimates that can be compared across the historical time series. NOAA Fisheries’ recommended path forward is the only option capable of producing such statistics, and involves converting estimates derived from state-specific surveys into the “common currency” of the Marine Recreational Information Program’s (MRIP’s) general survey designs. While we are working to develop methods that will allow us to calibrate “common currency” estimates against state-specific surveys and to integrate state surveys to produce one set of statistics for the shared species they cover, these methods are not expected to be peer-reviewed until 2020 or later.

This summer, NOAA Fisheries will participate in a series of workshops with state and regional partners to explore differences in the catch estimates produced by different surveys. While it’s reasonable to expect different surveys to produce different estimates—even when these surveys are conducted side-by-side—learning more about the factors that influence these differences could help us improve our sampling and estimation methods across the region.