Fishing Effort Survey At-a-Glance
NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program implements a national network of recreational fishing surveys. The Fishing Effort Survey gathers information about the number of trips anglers take in Hawaii and along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
How does NOAA Fisheries collect information about recreational fishing effort?
NOAA Fisheries' Marine Recreational Information Program administers the mail Fishing Effort Survey to collect information about the number of trips taken by anglers fishing from shore and private boats. (The program collects information about the number of trips taken from for-hire vessels through the For-Hire Survey.)
The Fishing Effort Survey is administered from Maine through Mississippi and in Hawaii. It asks each member of the sampled household to report:
- Number of days fished from shore in state of residence
- Number of days fished from private or rental boat in state of residence
Because our sample needs to represent the fishing activity of all residents of participating states—and not just the residents who fish—all household members are asked to respond, even if they didn’t fish during the period of time the survey asks about.
How many mail surveys are sent out each year, and how many people respond?
Each year, about 303,000 residential households across 17 states receive the Fishing Effort Survey in the mail. Response rates are consistently above 30 percent. Because research shows response rates increase when participants are compensated for their time and asked about topics other than fishing, the Fishing Effort Survey includes a $2 prepaid cash incentive and questions about weather and outdoor activity. A response from someone who didn’t fish at all is just as valuable to our survey as one from someone who fished every day.
How are the data collected by the Fishing Effort Survey used?
Our fishing effort data are combined with catch-per-trip data to produce estimates of total recreational catch. State and federal stock assessment scientists use recreational catch estimates to inform their understanding of stock size and sustainable harvest levels. Fisheries managers use this information to set regulations that ensure access to fishing and promote the long-term health of fish populations.
How does responding to the Fishing Effort Survey benefit me?
When you share information about your fishing activity, you’re making a vital contribution to fisheries science and management. Your participation in our surveys helps us produce more accurate estimates of recreational catch. These estimates help scientists and managers monitor the health of fish stocks and support sustainable fishing opportunities now and for generations to come.
If I haven't been surveyed, how do I know my trips count?
Because we take steps to ensure the sample of households we survey is representative of the population of our target states, we don’t have to survey each of the millions of saltwater anglers in the U.S. to accurately estimate fishing effort.
How do you measure effort from anglers that don't live in coastal states?
While the Fishing Effort Survey is only sent to households in coastal states, the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey is conducted with recreational anglers regardless of where they reside. Because the APAIS asks anglers to report their state and county of residence, its data can be used to calculate a coverage adjustment that can be applied to our effort estimates to account for out-of-frame angler trips. (It would be expensive and inefficient to conduct the FES in non-coastal states, where the likelihood of reaching households whose residents participated in marine recreational fishing is low.)
Why do you collect demographic data?
Questions about age, gender, race, and ethnicity help us determine whether our sample is representative of our target population. By comparing our data to population benchmarks provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, we can determine whether our sample is over- or under-representing any major population group, and whether statistical adjustments must be applied. Including questions about demographic characteristics is a common survey practice, and all federal surveys must be reviewed and approved to ensure demographic questions are appropriately asked.
Are your effort estimates reliable?
Our data collection and estimation methods are statistically rigorous, scientifically sound, and subject to peer review. When we compare estimates produced by the Fishing Effort Survey with external data—such as rod and reel imports, outboard engine sales, registered boats, and other organizations’ estimates of fishing participation—we see similar trends.
Has the transition to the Fishing Effort Survey impacted our understanding of fishing effort?
Estimates from the Fishing Effort Survey are much higher than those produced by the survey it replaced. However, this does not mean there are more people fishing. Instead, our research shows our new survey better measures the amount of fishing already taking place. Because our previous effort survey underestimated fishing activity, our work to convert historical effort estimates to the "currency" of our new effort survey design raised historical estimates across the time series.
What can I do to help?
If you’re asked to participate in a fishing survey, we encourage you to provide complete and accurate information, even if you didn’t fish, or didn’t catch anything. This will help us produce more accurate estimates of recreational catch. You can also encourage other anglers to participate in recreational fishing surveys; voice your support for state, regional, and national data collection programs; or get involved in fisheries management through your state marine fisheries agency, interstate marine fisheries commission, or regional fishery management council.