How the Marine Recreational Information Program Samples Anglers
From in-person interviews to electronic reporting, different methods of data collection help us gather information from anglers and for-hire operators.
The Marine Recreational Information Program collects fishing data from anglers and for-hire operators. We use four methods of data collection to obtain this information: in-person interviews, telephone and mail surveys, and electronic reporting. By constructing comprehensive sample frames and using probability sampling methods, we ensure our samples reflect the characteristics of the larger group.
In-person interviews with anglers who have just completed a fishing trip—also known as in-person intercepts—are used to collect catch data directly from the recreational fishing community. In-person intercepts are also used as a “validation survey” for electronic reporting programs, as they allow field interviewers to validate self-reported data, monitor the extent of reporting, and account for unreported trips.
In-person intercepts are a component of two Marine Recreational Information Program surveys:
- The Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS), which collects catch information from anglers returning to marinas, boat ramps, beaches, fishing piers, and other publicly accessible fishing sites.
- The Large Pelagics Intercept Survey (LPIS), which collects catch information from anglers and for-hire operators returning from trips targeting tuna, billfish, sharks, and other large pelagic fish.
In-person intercepts are also a component of state data collection programs in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.
Telephone and Mail Surveys
When the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS)—the precursor to MRIP— was established in 1979, we used the Coastal Household Telephone Survey (CHTS) to collect data on angler effort, or the estimated number of fishing trips anglers take. In response to a 2006 program review from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, we tested alternative methods of collecting effort data and found a mail survey was superior to the random-digit dialing of residential households conducted under the CHTS.
As the percentage of adults living in homes with landline telephones declined, the gaps in CHTS coverage grew worse, and the households that could still be reached by the survey grew less representative of the general population. The mail Fishing Effort Survey, which replaced the CHTS in 2018, addresses these shortcomings: it reduces the potential for reporting and recall errors, provides nearly complete coverage of coastal state residents, and achieves a more representative sample than the telephone survey it replaced.
Telephone surveys are still used to measure effort through the For-Hire Survey (FHS) and the Large Pelagics Telephone Survey (LPTS). Because we have contact information for each of the populations these surveys target, stratified random sample telephone surveys are still an effective method of collecting data from these groups.) Telephone surveys are also a component of state data collection programs in Louisiana and California.
Electronic reporting is a method of data collection that uses smartphones, tablets, computers, and other technologies to record, send, and store recreational fishing data.
In some cases, electronic reporting allows samplers to use tablets instead of paper and pencil to record and submit data collected in the field. In others, electronic reporting allows anglers and for-hire operators to record and submit data through a website or mobile application. When an “opt-in” website or mobile application is used to collect data, a statistically valid probability-based sampling survey must be used to validate self-reported data and correct for missing or misfiled electronic reports.
In many regions, electronic trip reports are used to collect information about for-hire fishing activity. Electronic reporting is also a component of specialized surveys in Alabama and Mississippi.
A sample frame is the list of population members from which a sample is drawn. The sample frame for the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey, for example, is a list of public fishing access sites where anglers can be interviewed after they complete their fishing trips. The Fishing Effort Survey samples from a list of residential mailing addresses supplemented with information from a list of licensed anglers. And the For-Hire Survey samples from a continually updated directory of known for-hire vessels. By constructing comprehensive sample frames and using probability sampling methods, we ensure our samples reflect the characteristics of the larger group.