For-Hire Survey At a Glance
NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program administers a national network of recreational fishing surveys. The For-Hire Survey gathers information about for-hire fishing activity from captains along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
How does NOAA Fisheries collect information about for-hire fishing activity?
NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program administers the For-Hire Survey to collect information about fishing activity from charter boat and headboat captains along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The For-Hire Survey is conducted by state agencies, who call a random sample of for-hire vessel operators each week.
For-Hire Survey respondents are asked to report their vessels’ fishing activity during the previous week and to recount details from each trip, including:
- The number of anglers that fished from the boat.
- The hours spent fishing, method of fishing (e.g., casting, drifting, trolling, etc.), and area fished.
- The species targeted.
The resulting data are used to estimate the number of fishing trips taken by charter boats and headboats. These for-hire effort estimates are paired with the catch-per-trip estimates we derive from our dockside intercept survey to estimate total for-hire catch.
From Maine to Virginia, Highly Migratory Species permit holders may be asked to participate in the Large Pelagics Survey as an “add-on” to the For-Hire Survey. Federally permitted for-hire vessels may also be required to submit trip reports of their catch, effort, and in some cases, economic information.
- In the Greater Atlantic, vessel trip reports supplement the For-Hire Survey: while the vessels that must submit VTRs are still part of the For-Hire Survey sample frame, they are not called to participate.
- In the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, the Southeast Region Headboat Survey supplements the For-Hire Survey of headboats. Data from the new Southeast For-Hire Electronic Reporting Program—which collects information from charter boats—will not inform our catch or effort estimates until we have determined how these data will be integrated into the historical time series.
What is the difference between charter boats and headboats?
Vessel size, inspection requirements, fee structure, and angler experience are all factors that may be used to distinguish charter boats from headboats. However, within the context of recreational fishing data collection, anticipated fishing activity is the most important factor that separates the two vessel types. Grouping vessels based on patterns in and levels of fishing effort—and sampling the catch of the two groups differently—reduces the potential for bias and improves the precision of our catch and effort estimates. The Marine Recreational Information Program defines charter boats and headboats as follows:
- Charter boats are vessels that take a group of anglers—usually six or fewer—on a fishing trip with a licensed captain and crew. The anglers hire, or “charter,” the vessel, and pay a fee for the captain’s services. Charter boats engage in a full range of fishing techniques, including drift fishing, trolling, and bottom fishing. Charter boat catch is sampled at public fishing access sites through the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS) and Large Pelagics Intercept Survey (LPIS).
- Headboats are vessels that take multiple individual and/or small groups of anglers on a fishing trip with a licensed captain and crew. Headboats are generally larger than charter boats, and almost always take more than six anglers on a given trip. Headboat catch is sampled at sea through the APAIS.
Isn’t a telephone survey old-fashioned?
Landline-based telephone surveys that contact a random selection of residential households are no longer considered a scientifically sound method of collecting data. However, telephone surveys are still effective as long as you have complete contact information for the population you’re sampling. The For-Hire Survey samples from a comprehensive list of active for-hire vessels that includes complete contact information for each vessel’s representative.
How do for-hire data collection programs benefit me?
When for-hire captains, crew, and clients participate in a recreational fishing survey, they’re making a vital contribution to NOAA Fisheries’ understanding of how many fish anglers are catching and how many trips anglers are taking. Their catch and effort data help scientists assess the size and health of fish populations, so managers can pass regulations that support the long-term sustainability of fish stocks. Their economic data help managers evaluate the impacts of those regulations and assess disaster costs.
How do I know my vessel’s information isn’t counted more than once?
Different for-hire data collection programs are designed to collect different pieces of information about for-hire fishing activity. When two programs collect the same pieces of information, vessel identification numbers are used to ensure your reports aren’t duplicated and your data aren’t counted more than once.
What can I do to help?
Effective fisheries management relies on accurate catch estimates, which can only be produced with the support and cooperation of for-hire captains, crew, and clients. For-hire captains are encouraged to participate in the data collection programs that apply to them, and to recommend their clients participate in NOAA Fisheries’ shoreside catch survey when asked.