What is MRIP?
The Marine Recreational Information Program, or MRIP, is the state-regional-federal partnership responsible for developing, improving, and implementing surveys that measure how many trips saltwater anglers take, and how many fish they catch. This vital information—combined with other data, such as commercial catch and biological research—enables scientists and managers to assess and maintain sustainable U.S. fish stocks.
How does MRIP help keep recreational saltwater fishing sustainable?
Ensuring that our nation’s recreational saltwater fishermen have access to healthy and abundant fish stocks is the shared responsibility of federal, regional, and state science and management agencies; an informed and engaged public; and fishermen themselves. It requires assessing the health of fish stocks, setting regulations on how many fish can be caught without harming the stock, and evaluating the effectiveness of those regulations. MRIP provides an important piece of this puzzle by tracking what’s happening in recreational fisheries: how many fish anglers catch, keep, and release; where and when the fish are caught; and their size and species.
How are saltwater recreational fishermen involved in MRIP?
Recreational fishermen are our eyes and ears on the water, the central source of the information we use to produce estimates of recreational fishing activity. When anglers participate in catch and effort surveys and provide accurate data, they help ensure the best information possible is entering the management stream. Recreational fishermen also serve on our leadership and project teams, sit on panels and advisory groups that guide our priorities, and participate in our pilot studies.
How does MRIP measure recreational fishing activity?
We work with our state and regional partners to gather information directly from recreational fishermen. This includes the number of trips they take during a given period of time and the number of fish they catch on those trips. We also record size, species, what was kept, and what was discarded. Our surveys are tailored to the unique needs of each state, region, or territory, and are conducted via dockside interviews, phone, and mail. In short, to estimate the total catch for the time period and area we’re measuring, we multiply the effort, or number of angler trips, with the catch rate, also known as catch per trip. The actual calculations require slightly more complex science and statistics, but this captures the essence of how to produce a recreational catch estimate.
Estimating total catch
I’ve never been interviewed. How do I know that MRIP is taking my fishing information into account?
Although we cannot survey every angler, we can make sure that we interview enough different types of fishermen to represent anglers at large and get an accurate picture of fishing activity. We do this by looking at all the different types of fishing taking place—whether from shore or from a private or for-hire boat—and when and where various anglers are fishing. We then use statistical models to ensure we collect information from a representative sample of trips. This method does not give us an exact count of everything that’s caught or thrown back, but it does produce a statistically robust, scientifically sound estimate.
How close to reality are the MRIP estimates of recreational fishing? Can I look at the estimates myself?
Each estimate we produce from our survey data collection efforts includes a measure of precision, which tells us how confident we can be in the specific number of fish, trips, or pounds we report. We show this as a percentage, and as a range of possible numbers above and below the one we publish. It's like a margin of error used in opinion polling. The smaller the percentage or range, the more confident scientists, managers, fishermen, and other data users can be that our estimate reflects what’s actually happening on the water. All of this information is included in the data we publish—which are available on the MRIP website via a publicly accessible data query tool, along with instructions on how to run many common queries.
Anatomy of an Estimate
Who collects the information for the MRIP surveys?
As of 2016, all on-site angler surveys are conducted by specially trained state employees (with the exception of Puerto Rico), regardless of whether the information will be used at the state or federal level. Using state-based samplers allows us to make the most of local knowledge and resources, build stronger relationships with anglers, and work together more effectively for the sustainability of recreational fishing.
How does MRIP keep survey methods up-to-date?
Our survey methods are constantly evolving based on new science, ongoing evaluation of our methods, and emerging needs and behaviors of those who use our estimates. For instance, on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, we’re moving away from the telephone surveys we’ve used for decades, as more and more fishermen use cell phones only. On a state-by-state basis, we’re developing entirely new surveys that target specific species, short fishing seasons, and small geographic areas. And across the country, we’re supporting efforts to expand electronic reporting when it can increase the efficiency and accuracy of data collection.