What is MRIP?
NOAA Fisheries' Marine Recreational Information Program is the state-regional-federal partnership that develops, improves, and implements a national network of recreational fishing surveys. These surveys measure the number of saltwater trips recreational anglers take and the number of fish they catch. The resulting catch and effort estimates inform the assessment and management of U.S. fish stocks.
The Marine Recreational Information Program partnership is built on a collaborative approach to collecting data and producing estimates that meet regional science and management needs.
How does MRIP measure recreational fishing activity?
Our recreational fishing surveys vary from region to region, state to state, and, in some cases, species to species. Generally speaking, we measure catch rate—or the average number of fish caught per angler trip—through in-person interviews, and we measure effort—or the number of fishing trips anglers take—through mail and telephone surveys. In some regions, electronic trip reports collect additional information about for-hire fishing activity.
Our estimation methods are complex, but can be understood as multiplying catch rate by effort to estimate total recreational catch. Statistical weighting ensures our sampled units are able to represent themselves and the broader population we weren’t able to sample. In this way, we can draw conclusions about the entire recreational fishing community without having to collect information from each member of that community.
Why should I participate in an MRIP survey?
The strength of our catch estimates and the successful management of marine fish stocks begins with the recreational fishing community. Taking a few minutes to share information about your fishing trip is one of the most important contributions you can make to fisheries science, management, and the sustainability of a great American pastime.
When you share information about your fishing activity, you’re playing an important role in supporting sustainable fishing opportunities, now and for generations to come.
How many anglers does MRIP survey each year?
While the Marine Recreational Information Program partnership includes more than 25 state and regional data collection programs across the United States, program staff at NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Science and Technology administer three general recreational fishing surveys along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Each year:
- The Access Point Angler Intercept Survey intercepts about 86,000 angler trips.
- The For-Hire Survey completes about 21,000 interviews with charter and headboat captains.
- The mail Fishing Effort Survey, which is also administered in Hawaii, is sent to about 303,000 residential households. Response rates are consistently above 30%.
Why use surveys instead of counting all the fish anglers catch?
Millions of recreational anglers fish along our coasts. While it wouldn’t be practical or possible for us to intercept all of their trips, we can use probability-based sample surveys to collect information from a representative part of the recreational fishing community. Because this statistical approach produces unbiased estimates, it’s the standard for conducting large-scale government surveys like ours.
How do MRIP’s estimates impact fishing regulations?
Recreational catch estimates are just one of many pieces of information state and federal fisheries managers must consider during their science-based decision-making process. Sometimes, these estimates inform decisions to limit or restrict fishing; other times, they inform decisions to provide greater access to the resource. Reporting complete and accurate information about your fishing activity will help scientists accurately assess the size and health of fish populations, so managers can pass only those regulations that are necessary for the long-term sustainability of stocks.
What do MRIP’s estimates say about fishing activity in the United States?
Each year, NOAA Fisheries publishes a snapshot of fishing and seafood consumption in the United States. The most recent Fisheries of the United States report features recreational fisheries statistics from 2020, which indicate anglers took nearly 200 million saltwater fishing trips in the United States.
Of the 1 billion fish anglers caught, 65% were released alive. The Atlantic coast accounted for 68% of trips and 68% of catch; the Gulf coast accounted for 29% of trips and 30% of catch; and the remaining regions (Alaska, Hawaii, and the Pacific coast) accounted for 3% of trips and 2% of catch. To filter and download our recreational fisheries statistics, visit the MRIP Query Tool.
Is MRIP confident in its estimates?
NOAA Fisheries has made significant improvements to how we collect, analyze, and report recreational fishing data. Our data collection and estimation methods undergo extensive testing, evaluation, and independent peer review, and our work is informed by recommendations from an independent team of expert statistical consultants. Our staff practice extensive quality control measures before our estimates are published, checking for errors in data entry and investigating any unusual changes in trends for high-interest, rare-event, and federally managed species. And by setting clear expectations about what we consider a sound survey management practice, our Recreational Fishing Survey and Data Standards will further ensure the integrity of our data collection efforts and the quality of our recreational fisheries statistics.
While the “pulse” nature of some fisheries can make it hard to produce precise catch estimates, all of our point estimates are published with a measure of their precision, and data users are alerted when an estimate is imprecise and should therefore be used with caution. Ultimately, stock assessment scientists, fisheries managers, and other data users must determine whether and how to incorporate imprecise estimates into their work.
Because precision often improves as sample sizes increase, we are working to expand our sample where more precise estimates are needed. In FY20, we began:
- Dedicating Modern Fish Act investment funds to states along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts to expand angler sampling and improve the precision of catch estimates.
- Investigating whether the precision of estimates for species that are rarely encountered during field interviews could be improved by measuring average catch per trip as calculated over multiple years.
How does MRIP keep its survey methods up-to-date?
To ensure our program is using the best available science, teams of partners and stakeholders follow a continuous process of improvement. We regularly evaluate our existing methods of data collection and recommend new or improved survey designs. Our transition process minimizes the disruptions that might otherwise occur when a new or improved survey design is put in place.
How do I know MRIP is taking my fishing activity into account?
With millions of fishing trips taking place each year, it’s not possible to intercept every trip that occurs or gather information from every angler who fishes. While no two fishing trips are the same, our statistical processes ensure the angler trips we intercept, the households we survey, and the for-hire captains we interview are representative of the recreational fishing community.