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.
To estimate total recreational catch, the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) 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.
In-person interviews with anglers who have just completed a fishing trip—also known as in-person intercepts—are used to estimate catch rate, or the estimated number of fish caught per angler trip. This method of data collection is a component of two MRIP surveys: the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS) and the Large Pelagics Intercept Survey (LPIS).
- The Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS) is conducted at marinas, boat ramps, beaches, fishing piers, and other publicly accessible fishing sites. Trained samplers interview anglers as they complete their fishing trips and collect information about the size, weight, and species of each fish caught and the number and species of each fish released. The APAIS is administered on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Maine to Mississippi and in Hawaii. It has also been administered in Puerto Rico, but our data collection efforts have been suspended in this region as the territory rebuilds following Hurricane Maria.
- The Large Pelagics Intercept Survey (LPIS) is conducted with anglers and for-hire operators returning from trips targeting tuna, billfish, sharks, and other large pelagic fish. The LPIS measures the number of fish caught, the size of fish landed, the number of anglers who fished, the length and location of their trip, the fishing methods used, and the species targeted. The LPIS is part of the Large Pelagics Survey administered on the Atlantic coast from Maine to Virginia.
In-person intercepts are also a component of state-led surveys on the Pacific and Gulf coasts.
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 taken. Following a 2006 review from the National Research Council that identified potential problems with our sampling and estimation designs, we tested alternative data collection methods and found a mail effort survey was superior to the random-digit dialing of residential households conducted under the CHTS.
In fact, a mail effort survey design addressed several CHTS shortcomings.
- Mail surveys reach a more accurate representative sample of anglers.
- Mail surveys produce higher response rates.
- Mail surveys are less prone to possible recall errors.
In 2018, the mail Fishing Effort Survey (FES) replaced the CHTS to estimate the number of fishing trips made by anglers from the shore or a private boat on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is administered from Maine to Mississippi and in Hawaii. It has also been administered in Puerto Rico, but our data collection efforts have been suspended in this region as the territory rebuilds following Hurricane Maria.
Telephone surveys are 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—including phone numbers provided by for-hire vessel representatives and Highly Migratory Species permit holders, respectively—stratified random sample telephone surveys are still an effective method of collecting data from these groups.)
- The For-Hire Survey (FHS) collects information from for-hire vessel representatives to estimate fishing effort from the for-hire sector. It asks representatives to report vessel-fishing activity during a one-week reference period and to recount details from each trip. It is conducted on the Atlantic coast from Maine through Florida and on the Gulf in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi.
- The Large Pelagics Telephone Survey (LPTS) is conducted with anglers and for-hire operators who hold Highly Migratory Species permits. It collects effort information for tuna, billfish, sharks, and other large pelagic fish, and is part of the Large Pelagics Survey administered on the Atlantic coast from Maine to Virginia.
Telephone surveys are also a component of state-led surveys in Louisiana and on the Pacific coast.
Electronic reporting programs allow anglers and for-hire operators to record and submit their own fishing data through websites or smartphone applications. Supplemental shoreside sampling is used to validate self-reported angler data and correct missing or improperly filed electronic reports. Electronic reporting can be a fast method of data collection, but can also experience low response rates and high attrition. (Of the small number of anglers who participate in electronic reporting programs, most fail to provide more than a handful of data reports before discontinuing their use.)
We are committed to developing and expanding the use of electronic reporting technologies that produce sound data in an efficient manner. Adopted in 2018, Implementing Electronic Reporting: The MRIP Action Plan (PDF, 1 page) outlines four actions to advance electronic reporting: evaluate the inclusion of an online reporting option for the Fishing Effort Survey; assess the current status and future potential of electronic reporting options for private anglers; advance electronic reporting in the for-hire sector; and strengthen stakeholder engagement.
- In 2012, we began to investigate the use of tablets rather than paper surveys during in-person intercepts. In 2019, APAIS samplers on the Atlantic coast—trained by the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program (ACCSP)—will begin to use tablets to record and transmit angler intercept data. The tablet will feature built-in logic meant to minimize the introduction of errors during data entry. Electronic data transmission is expected to reduce time spent processing information and provide more time for checking information.
- In 2016, we committed to developing and certifying survey designs that use electronic logbooks and shoreside validation sampling to generate a complete census of for-hire trips. Once these designs have been certified, our regional partners may choose to implement them to replace the random telephone and intercept sampling of for-hire vessels.
- In 2018, we began to explore the inclusion of an online reporting option in the mail Fishing Effort Survey (FES). A “push to web” design that encourages participants to respond to the FES through a personal computer or mobile device is being tested in Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and Florida. (If, after two reminders, the participant fails to complete the online survey, a paper survey is provided.)
Electronic reporting is a component of two census-based supplemental surveys in the Gulf of Mexico.