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NOAA Shares Plans to Re-envision Recreational Fishing Data Collection

June 05, 2024

NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology Director Evan Howell reflects on the importance of collaborating on a fresh approach to the recreational fisheries data collection partnership in the United States.

Recreational anglers fish off the coast of Florida. Fishing from a private boat. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Nationally coherent, regionally specific. 

This is the primary goal of our current federal-state effort to re-envision the recreational fisheries data collection program. 

We collect recreational fishing data from anglers through our network of surveys. These data result in estimates of recreational catch and effort. Alongside commercial, observer, and biological data, they help inform stock assessments and resulting fisheries management advice. Our aim is to provide optimal fishing opportunities while balancing the need to protect marine fisheries resources. 

While our current data collection program has its strengths—including tracking long-term patterns in recreational fishing activity—we acknowledge the program’s challenges. We recognize the need to re-evaluate our approaches and strive for a new collaboratively developed vision for recreational data collection that builds on the strengths of our state and regional partners. This will produce better data and better recreational catch estimates. Alongside our partners, the involvement of the recreational fishing community is crucial to the success of this process.

We are listening, and we need your help. 

In the spring, we held initial briefings with key partners from interstate fisheries commissions, federal fishery management councils, and states and territories. We also met with a large number of partner-identified members of the broader recreational fishing community. 

Evan Howell, NOAA Fisheries' Director of the Office of Science and Technology
Evan Howell, NOAA Fisheries' Director of the Office of Science and Technology

We hope to work swiftly and thoroughly over the next year to conduct more in-depth interviews, forge working groups, and host a series of workshops to develop a shared vision. The ultimate goal is to transition to a reinvigorated partnership by 2026. If you’re interested in staying in the loop on this initiative, please email fisheries.mrip@noaa.gov

Our program is built on the principle of continuous improvement. In tandem with this initiative, we are facilitating substantial projects to directly help tackle primary concerns raised by partners and anglers regarding recreational fishing data, including: 

  • Conducting a large-scale study of our Fishing Effort Survey throughout 2024 to test improvements in respondent recall and resulting estimates of recreational fishing effort
  • Supporting projects and workshops addressing concerns with the uncertainty surrounding numbers of discards and fishing effort in the Gulf of Mexico with Inflation Reduction Act funding
  • Supporting state and regional partners in the Atlantic, West Coast, Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii in the development and certification of additional state data-collection programs to produce more timely and precise catch and effort estimates for key regional species

We look forward to hearing from you and working with you as we continue to improve this important component of our mission.