Recreational Fishing


The importance of saltwater recreational fishing

Saltwater recreational fishing (fishing for sport or pleasure) is an integral part of American coastal life. From Maine to Guam, striped bass to ulua, recreational fishing is both a cultural cornerstone and an important economic driver in the United States. In 2015, nearly 9 million saltwater anglers took 61 million fishing trips generating $63 billion in sales impacts, $36 billion in value-added impacts, $22 billion in income impacts, and supporting 439,000 U.S. jobs.

Recreational fishing and NOAA Fisheries

In 2009, NOAA Fisheries began an initiative to strengthen our partnership with the recreational fishing community. Though this initiative, in February 2015 we released the Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy to help guide agency planning, activities, and decision-making. Based on the policy, NOAA Fisheries created national and regional implementation plans that set the course for our recreational fisheries work.

The science behind recreational fisheries management

From stock assessments to economic analyses of fishing and its impact, NOAA Fisheries uses scientific data to guide our policies and fisheries management.

  • The Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) is the way we count and report recreational catch and effort. MRIP provides timely, scientifically sound estimates of recreational catch and effort. We continually collaborate with our regional partners to meet the data needs of the recreational fishing community.
  • Stock assessments are critical to marine resource management. They describe the past and current status of a fish population, answer questions about the size of the stock, and help predict how the fishery will respond to management measures.

MRIP data combined with stock assessments and other information help guide recreational fishery managers and ensures appropriate measures are taken to rebuild fisheries if needed.

How do we manage recreational fisheries?

U.S. fisheries management is guided by several laws, including the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and Endangered Species Act (ESA).

U.S. fisheries management is a collaborative and evolving process of science, management, innovation, and partnership with the fishing industry. The three pillars of fisheries management--science, management, and enforcement--are designed to prevent overfishing, quickly stop overfishing when it occurs, and rebuild overfished stocks.

Learn more about fisheries management in the United States. [link to fisheries management card stack]

Who is responsible for managing recreational fisheries?

NOAA Fisheries works with the eight regional fishery management councils on fisheries issues in their region. The councils are responsible for developing fishery management plans and rebuilding plans, selecting fishery management options, and setting annual catch limits. We also work closely with the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commissions and the states to collect data and manage fisheries resources in shared coastal regions.

Additional resources

To learn more about recreational fisheries, connect with our national team or regional recreational fishing coordinators. [link to web page that will list the national/regional contacts]

If you are interested in participating in recreational fishing research, here are a few grant programs that can help get you started:

To learn more about economic information related to recreational fisheries, check out: