How the Program Has Improved
Evolution of the Program
The Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS) was a successful program for almost two decades, and was kept in place until 2006. However, there was very little change during this time. In 2006, the National Research Council (NRC) conducted a full program review and noted that the methods being used under MRFSS were no longer efficient and accurate at estimating catch and effort. With little change to survey design and budget, MRFSS was unable to keep up with the increasing demand for better precision, accuracy, timeliness, and coverage. Specifically, NRC determined MRFSS surveys and methods were hindered by undercoverage, inefficient and biased sampling and estimation methods, and other potential areas of bias. To learn more about specific issues with MRFSS surveys and methods, you can read the NRC report.
Re-estimation of Historical Catch Estimates
In 2007, we began improvements to our catch survey method. The NRC review found that the old sampling method for estimating catch was not correctly matched with the catch survey design. With the new design, we removed potential bias by properly weighting past survey data. This let us re-estimate historical catch estimates to be more accurate and precise.
New Angler Intercept Survey Protocols
Among the most visible of our improvement initiatives was the 2013 implementation of the new Access Point Angler Intercept Survey, the dockside catch survey we conduct at the end of fishing trips to measure recreational catch on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The new protocols removed sources of potential bias from our sampling process, which addressed one of the chief concerns raised by the National Research Council in its 2006 review of our survey methods.
Online Site Register
Key to using our new survey protocols is an online, searchable site register of publicly accessible recreational fishing access points from Maine to Louisiana. Developed with our state partners, the site register helps us manage the interconnected details required to select an efficient and statistically sound sample. The register is continuously updated using information from field staff, our state partners, and public users.
Improved Effort Survey
In 2015, MRIP launched a new method for estimating the number of trips taken by recreational fishermen. The new survey method moves away from household telephone surveys, which are becoming less effective as fewer homes use landline phones. Instead, it is mail-based, drawing on addresses from U.S. Postal Service and using license and registration information provided by anglers through the National Saltwater Angler Registry.
Expanded Regional Efforts
Recognizing that management needs from region to region—and even from fishery to fishery—can vary dramatically, MRIP is testing survey design improvements based on previous studies in the Pacific Coast, Western Pacific, and Caribbean.