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NOAA Outlines 2021 Recreational Fishing Data Priorities in Updated MRIP Plan

November 30, 2020

Responding to the impacts of COVID, transitioning to new survey and data standards, and expanding data collection are among the Marine Recreational Information Program’s priorities for the coming year.

A recreational angler casts a line in the surf.

Today, NOAA’s Marine Recreational Information Program published an updated implementation plan that highlights the program’s 2020 milestones and its priorities for the coming year. Since the first MRIP Implementation Plan was adopted in 2008, annual updates have described the program’s adaptive approach toward:

  • Ensuring sound science
  • Providing quality products that meet science and management needs
  • Increasing partner, customer, and public understanding of its work

“We remain committed to improving and expanding our network of recreational data collection programs, with plans to research improvements to our existing fishing surveys and review and implement new survey designs,” said Evan Howell, director of NOAA’s Office of Science and Technology. “While our Marine Recreational Information Program has established a national set of standards for collecting data and producing recreational fisheries statistics, it has also worked with its partners in the implementation of state and regional data collection programs to account for their unique fisheries, fishing communities, and science and management needs. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners in the coming year to integrate the data collected from these programs into one recreational data source.”

NOAA's Marine Recreational Information Program is the state-regional-federal partnership that uses a national network of recreational fishing surveys to produce estimates of total recreational catch. These estimates are vital to the assessment and management of U.S. fish stocks. They could not be produced without the active participation and cooperation of state agencies, interstate marine fisheries commissions, and regional fishery management councils. These partners have shaped the program’s goals, contributed to its accomplishments, and informed the priorities described in this implementation plan.

The program has also based its priorities on recommendations issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 2017. These recommendations focus on improving the program’s methods of data collection and estimation, stakeholder communication, and partner coordination. As mandated by the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2018, the agency will submit a biennial report to Congress detailing its progress toward these recommendations. The first of these reports will be submitted later this year.

“In 2020, the COVID-19 crisis presented an unanticipated challenge to collecting recreational fishing data,” said Richard Cody, chief of the Office of Science and Technology’s Fisheries Statistics Division. “But states have incorporated new safety protocols into their conduct of in-person angler interviews, and statisticians are exploring estimation options that better align with the data that are available. As we look toward 2021, we will continue to work together to address data deficiencies in support of our longstanding commitment to providing our partners with catch estimates that are based on tried and true survey and estimation methods.”

2021 Priorities

In 2021, the Marine Recreational Information Program will continue to:

  • Respond to the challenges of COVID-19. As a result of the pandemic, 20 states decided to suspend, reduce, or modify their conduct of the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey. The total number of intercepts completed between March 1 and August 31, 2020 declined more than 30 percent from that period last year. While states have resumed shore, private boat, and charter boat sampling, at-sea headboat sampling remains suspended. Concerns for angler and field interviewer safety continue to impact field interviewers’ ability to work at high-activity sites and weigh and measure individual fish. In 2021, we will work to address the data gaps caused by the widespread suspension of in-person and at-sea sampling. We will monitor the pandemic’s continued impact on recreational fishing data collection.
  • Transition to new survey and data standards. We will ensure changes to our statistical processes are communicated effectively and implemented smoothly, with input from the agencies and organizations that rely on them to assess and manage fish stocks.
  • Improve and expand our network of state, regional, and coastwide data collection programs.
    • Work with regional partners to develop and implement a logbook-based for-hire data collection program, with intercept survey-based validation sampling, for the South Atlantic and Gulf coasts
    • Reestablish a data collection program in Puerto Rico, transition to a new or modified data collection design in Hawaii, and begin to develop a new data collection design for the U.S. Virgin Islands
    • Increase sampling in the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific
    • Develop improvements to our Large Pelagics Survey.
    • Support research to improve the data quality of our general catch and effort survey designs.
  • Engage in continued dialogue with the recreational fishing community. We will research the needs of this key audience and deliver information to build understanding of recreational fishing data, its uses, and its limitations.

2020 Milestones

In 2020, the Marine Recreational Information Program:

  • Administered $3 million in Modern Fish Act investment funds to our partners to increase angler sampling levels in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico and improve the precision of regional catch estimates. This supports the National Academies’ recommendation to expand our investments in our partners.
  • Completed the Pacific Regional Implementation Plan. This plan will inform the financial and technical support the program will provide to recreational fishing surveys in Washington, Oregon, and California. This supports the National Academies’ recommendation to continue our communication and coordination with the Pacific coast states.
  • Completed the first phase of an angler analysis that will examine the information-sharing habits and opinions of the recreational fishing community.
  • Published a suite of new outreach materials for anglers. This supports the National Academies’ recommendation to more actively communicate with anglers.

For a complete list of the program’s goals, accomplishments, and priorities, read the 2021 Implementation Plan Update (PDF, 16 pages).