Marine Recreational Information Program Milestones
NOAA Fisheries has collected recreational fishing data since 1979. Milestones in our data collection history and changes to the design and coverage of our recreational fishing surveys are described below.
In 1976, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act mandated the sustainable management of U.S. fisheries through plans that considered both recreational and commercial harvest data. In 1979, the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS) was established to estimate the impact of recreational fishing on marine resources. In 2008, the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) replaced MRFSS to meet increasing demand for more precise, more accurate, and more timely recreational catch estimates.
Since 2008, we’ve worked to improve how we collect, analyze, and report recreational fishing information. We’ve revised our catch survey protocols; implemented a mail survey of fishing effort; and developed peer-reviewed calibration methodologies used to place historical catch and effort estimates into the currency of our new survey designs. Most recently, we established survey and data standards to ensure the integrity of our data collection efforts, the quality of our recreational fisheries statistics, and the strength of science-based management decisions. Milestones in our program’s history and changes to the design and coverage of our recreational fishing surveys are described below.
- 2020: The Pacific Coast Implementation Plan (PDF, 30 pages) is completed. Modern Fish Act investment funds are administered to increase angler sampling levels in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico and improve the precision of regional catch estimates. Recreational Fishing Survey and Data Standards are established to promote data quality, consistency, and comparability across our national network of recreational fishing surveys. An evaluation of an online reporting option for our mail survey of shore and private boat fishing activity finds that a “web push” design is not a feasible or cost-effective alternative to the Fishing Effort Survey, in large part because the design decreases response rates and the timeliness of data collection.
- 2019: A report to Congress (PDF, 19 pages) describes MRIP’s efforts to explore the suitability of electronic reporting as a method of collecting data from saltwater anglers. The program updates the road map that describes the tasks that will support replacing the random sampling of charter vessels with a complete census of for-hire trips, as reported by vessel operators through electronic logbooks. A region-specific white paper (PDF, 31 pages) documents NOAA Fisheries’ recommended path forward regarding the most appropriate source of marine recreational catch statistics for the assessment of gray triggerfish, vermilion snapper, and other Gulf of Mexico reef fish stocks. A revised policy directive formally documents certification as a key step in transitioning to a new or improved data collection design.
- 2018: The Executive Steering Committee approves a new organizational structure to reflect the shift in MRIP’s focus from developing, testing, and certifying survey designs to facilitating data collection, managing program implementation, and understanding and addressing regional needs and priorities. The Coastal Household Telephone Survey is discontinued and the Fishing Effort Survey is implemented in Hawaii and along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. NOAA Fisheries certifies the designs of three specialized surveys operating in the Gulf of Mexico: Tails n’ Scales, Snapper Check, and the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. An action plan outlines MRIP’s work to advance the use of electronic reporting in recreational fishing data collection.
- 2017: The National Academies releases a report that recognizes NOAA Fisheries’ “impressive progress” since its 2006 review and highlights the challenges that remain. A framework describes MRIP’s approach for responding to the report’s recommendations. A five-year strategic plan formalizes MRIP’s longstanding approach toward improving its recreational catch and effort statistics; defines the program’s vision, direction, and metrics for success; and outlines the goals the program is driving toward and the strategies and tactics it will undertake to achieve them. NOAA Fisheries certifies the design of an alternative general survey operating in Louisiana.
- 2016: NOAA Fisheries requests a follow-up review by the National Academies. Regional Implementation Teams are established for the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific, Alaska, Pacific Islands, U.S. Caribbean, and Atlantic Highly Migratory Species. An Electronic Reporting Procedural Directive (PDF, 5 pages) affirms MRIP’s commitment to working with partners to develop sound electronic reporting tools, and outlines the program’s priorities for expanding the use of electronic technologies.
- 2015: The Government Accountability Office publishes a review of MRIP that describes the challenges of saltwater recreational fishing data collection and the steps the program has taken to improve. The GAO recommends NOAA Fisheries develop a comprehensive strategy to guide its saltwater recreational fishing data collection efforts, which it does in 2017. NOAA Fisheries publishes a Policy Directive (PDF, 2 pages) that states a Transition Plan must be developed if modifications to saltwater recreational fishing survey sampling or estimation methods may result in consistently higher or lower estimates of catch or effort. As a result, MRIP’s Transition Team develops a transition plan (PDF, 34 pages) to guide the switch from the Coastal Household Telephone Survey to the Fishing Effort Survey. From 2015 to 2018, the CHTS and FES are conducted side-by-side. A progress report (PDF, 10 pages) describes the results from the first full year of this benchmarking period.
- 2014: A cross-disciplinary Transition Team composed of state partners, scientists, stock assessors, and managers is established to manage the process of transitioning to improved recreational fishing surveys.
- 2013-2014: A series of workshops—including the Red Snapper Recreational Catch Accounting Methods Workshop I (PDF, 5 pages), Workshop II (PDF, 7 pages), Workshop III (PDF, 7 pages), and Workshop IV—explore approaches to improving recreational red snapper catch estimates in the Gulf of Mexico.
- 2013: The Executive Steering Committee recommends a hybrid approach to implementation (PDF, 45 pages). Under this approach, NOAA Fisheries maintains a central role in developing and certifying survey methods, and in establishing standards and best practices; regions are responsible for selecting survey methods and managing data collection.
- 2012: New methods are developed to derive catch estimates from Access Point Angler Intercept Survey data. A subsequent calibration workshop (PDF, 18 pages) develops a process for matching recreational catch statistics derived through MRFSS methodology with catch statistics derived through MRIP’s weighted estimation methodology, allowing MRIP to release re-estimated catch statistics for the eight years between 2004 and 2011. An opt-in angler panel workshop addresses the use of data collected from voluntary panels of anglers, and explores how this kind of data collection program can establish and sustain angler enthusiasm and support.
- 2011: A data timeliness workshop (PDF, 41 pages) fosters dialogue about the need for more timely recreational fishing statistics. The workshop produces six recommendations to improve recreational data timeliness and a series of findings about approaches for addressing management uncertainty.
- 2010: The National Saltwater Angler Registry is launched. By October of 2011, every state and territory in the nation—with the exception of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—has either established its own saltwater fishing license or registration system or implemented a qualifying regional recreational fishing data collection program, and has agreed to share information about license or registration holders or estimates of recreational catch with NOAA Fisheries. As a result, most U.S. anglers are not required to register with the National Saltwater Angler Registry.
- 2009: NOAA Fisheries establishes a process that allows states to be designated exempt from the National Saltwater Angler Registry if they participate in a qualifying regional recreational fishing data collection program or agree to share certain information about their saltwater fishing license and registration holders with NOAA Fisheries.
- 2008: The Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) is established and the first MRIP Implementation Plan (PDF, 46 pages) is adopted. The Executive Steering Committee that was formed in 2004 is now supported by three teams: Operations, Registry, and Communications and Education. (The Information Management Team is formed in 2010.) NOAA Fisheries finalizes a rule (PDF, 4 pages) that outlines the requirements for and exemptions from the National Saltwater Angler Registry.
- 2007: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is reauthorized. It echoes the National Academies’ call for a new recreational fisheries data collection program, and tasks NOAA Fisheries with developing a National Saltwater Angler Registry. An operations workshop (PDF, 4 pages) allows teams of statisticians, scientists, fisheries managers, and industry representatives to develop a list of projects that would lead to an improved recreational fisheries data collection program. NOAA Fisheries, regional fishery management councils, interstate fisheries commissions, state agencies, and other partners create a development plan (PDF, 10 pages) that describes the steps needed to redesign the MRFSS. A progress report (PDF, 4 pages) is prepared in 2007, and a second progress report (PDF, 16 pages) is submitted to Congress in 2011.
- 2006: The National Academies releases a report that recommends NOAA Fisheries redesign its saltwater recreational fisheries surveys. NOAA Fisheries convenes a recreational fisheries statistics requirements workshop (PDF, 18 pages) to explore how a new program might meet science and management needs, and is tasked with developing a blueprint for redesigning its existing program by 2008. An Executive Steering Committee is formed to guide this process.
- 2004: NOAA Fisheries asks the National Academies to conduct an independent review of the government's saltwater recreational fisheries data collection programs.
- 2000: The For-Hire Survey (FHS) is implemented from Florida to Louisiana. It is extended to East Florida in 2002, and implemented from Maine through Georgia in 2003.
- 1990: NOAA Fisheries hires statisticians to assume responsibility for estimation work previously performed by a contractor.
- 1986: The Large Pelagics Survey (LPS) is implemented from Maine through Virginia.
- 1979: The Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS) is established to estimate the impact of recreational fishing on marine resources. The Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS) and Coastal Household Telephone Survey (CHTS) are implemented along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts. The first recreational fishing estimates derived from the APAIS and CHTS are available in 1981.
Changes in Survey Coverage
- 2020: As a result of COVID-19, 20 states decide to suspend, reduce, or modify their conduct of the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS). While states resume shore, private boat, and charter boat sampling by August 1, at-sea headboat sampling remains suspended, and concerns for angler and field interviewer safety continue to impact field interviewers’ ability to work at high-activity sites and weigh and measure individual fish. NOAA Fisheries continues to monitor the pandemic’s impact on recreational fishing data collection.
- 2018: NOAA Fisheries certifies the designs of three specialized surveys operating in the Gulf of Mexico: Tails n’ Scales, Snapper Check, and the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. Alabama’s Snapper Check and Mississippi’s Tails n’ Scales are used to monitor charter and private boat fishing for red snapper. Florida’s Gulf Reef Fish Survey (which becomes the State Reef Fish Survey in 2020) is used to monitor private boat fishing for a suite of reef fish species that includes red snapper. The Coastal Household Telephone Survey (CHTS) is discontinued and replaced with the Fishing Effort Survey (FES).
- 2017: The APAIS and CHTS are suspended in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.
- 2015: For three years, the FES is conducted alongside the CHTS on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
- 2014: The APAIS and CHTS are discontinued in Louisiana. The APAIS is conducted there in 2015 to serve as a benchmark against a recreational fishing data collection program known as LA Creel. NOAA Fisheries certifies the design of LA Creel in 2017.
- 2005: The For-Hire Survey (FHS) is implemented on the islands of Hawaii and Maui. It is discontinued in 2006.
- 2004: The APAIS and CHTS are discontinued on the Pacific coast.
- 2003: The APAIS and CHTS are implemented on the islands of Hawaii and Oahu. The surveys are implemented across all of Hawaii in 2005.
- 2000: The FHS is implemented from Florida to Louisiana. It is extended to East Florida in 2002, and implemented from Maine through Georgia in 2003. The APAIS and CHTS are implemented in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The surveys are discontinued in the U.S. Virgin Islands later this same year.
- 1990: The APAIS and CHTS are suspended on the Pacific coast. The surveys are reinstated in 1993.
- 1988: Wave 1 sampling (January – February) for the APAIS and CHTS is reinstated in North Carolina to re-evaluate catch and effort in the Southeast. It is discontinued in 1991.
- 1987: Wave 6 (November – December) sampling for the APAIS and CHTS is discontinued in Maine and New Hampshire, due to the high cost of sampling during periods of low fishing activity. Wave 2 sampling (March – April) is discontinued for this reason in 1996.
- 1986: The APAIS sampling of party boats is discontinued from North Carolina through Louisiana. The Large Pelagics Survey (LPS) is implemented from Maine through Virginia. Texas discontinues its participation in MRFSS.
- 1985: Wave 1 (January – February) sampling for the APAIS and CHTS is reinstated in Georgia to evaluate catch and effort in the Southeast. It is discontinued in 1989.
- 1982: Wave 1 (January – February) sampling for the APAIS and CHTS is discontinued from Maine through Georgia, due to the high cost of sampling during periods of low fishing activity. Year-round sampling continues to occur from Florida through Texas.
- 1979: The APAIS and CHTS are implemented along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts.
Changes in Sampling and Estimation Methods
Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS)
- 2019: State samplers from Maine through Georgia are trained by staff from the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistical Program and begin using tablets instead of paper forms to record and send angler intercept data.
- 2016: From Maine to Georgia, the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program assumes responsibility for coordinating the state conduct of the APAIS.
- 2014: The private or rental boat mode and charter boat mode are combined to form a single mixed boat mode.
- 2013: The APAIS is redesigned to ensure each sampling assignment includes a fixed date, time of day, duration, mode, and cluster of sites, and to allow all eligible anglers to be counted. It is implemented on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in 2013, and in Puerto Rico in 2014. To improve performance metrics (e.g., number of completed interviews per assignment), modifications are made to sample allocations and distributions. To allow samplers to spend more time at fishing sites and to ensure more assignments are allocated to high-activity days, the maximum site cluster size is reduced from three to two sites, and Friday is moved from the weekday to the weekend day stratum. A calibration workshop (PDF, 20 pages) is held to determine whether these changes would provide catch estimates that differ from prior values, and how catch estimates should be adjusted to maintain a valid long-term time series.
- 2012: Improved estimation methods are used to re-calculate catch and effort estimates dating back to 2004 to address concerns raised by the National Academies.
- 2011: A pilot study tests a new sampling design in North Carolina.
- 2004: With the implementation of the For-Hire Survey (FHS), the collapsed party and charter boat mode is retired. Moving forward, separate party and charter boat estimates are produced.
- 2003: During pilot testing of the FHS, party boat and charter boat samples are increased and stratified by boat type.
- 1998: From Florida through Louisiana, survey conduct is transferred to state agency personnel.
- 1991: Questions are adopted to indicate when anglers have been interviewed from the same boat and record the number of anglers fishing in each boat party. In North Carolina, the beach or bank mode and manmade shore mode no longer form a single shore mode.
- 1990: Regional representatives begin to supervise samplers and ensure they adhere to sampling protocols.
- 1987: Sampling is stratified to increase Wave 1 (January – February) sampling in Monroe County, Florida, and Waves 3-5 (May – October) sampling on the Florida Panhandle (Escambia through Bay County). Estimates specific to these regions are aggregated to report total estimates for all of West Florida. 1988: The inland fishing area response is further detailed to allow for the identification of fishing in specific and significant estuaries along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts (e.g., Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay, or Tampa Bay). While these fishing areas are coded in trip data files, estimates continue to be produced at the collapsed inland stratification scale. Post-stratification or domain estimation techniques can be used to produce estimates for these inland water bodies.
- 1981: Sampling is stratified by state and fishing mode (i.e., beach or bank, manmade shore, private or rental boat, and party or charter boat), and divided into two-month sampling periods known as waves. The beach or bank mode and manmade shore mode are combined to form a single shore mode in 1986.
- 1979: The APAIS is implemented.
Transition from Coastal Household Telephone Survey to Fishing Effort Survey
- 2020: An evaluation of an online reporting option for the FES finds that a “web push” design is not a feasible or cost-effective alternative, in large part because the design decreases response rates and the timeliness of data collection.
- 2018: The CHTS is discontinued and replaced with the FES.
- 2017: A peer review workshop documents panel opinion (PDF, 34 pages) on the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed calibration model.
- 2016: NOAA Fisheries, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and the Southeast Fisheries Science Center explore the possible effects (PDF, 29 pages) different effort estimate calibration scenarios might have on assessments for key stocks in the region. These calibration scenarios are meant to reproduce historical effort estimates as though these estimates were derived from data collected through the FES.
- 2014: A cross-disciplinary Transition Team develops a transition plan (PDF, 34 pages) to guide the switch from the CHTS to the Fishing Effort Survey (FES). From 2015 to 2018, the CHTS and FES are conducted concurrently. A progress report (PDF, 10 pages) describes the results from the first full year of this benchmarking period.
- 2012: Improved estimation methods are used to re-calculate catch and effort estimates dating back to 2004 to address concerns raised by the National Academies.
- 2011: Pilot studies explore how recall period length can influence data quality and how a dual-frame mail survey design can influence response rates.
- 1995: New estimation methods are implemented to correct for biases associated with item non-response (i.e., missing data). Historical effort estimates increase about five percent.
- 1988: During the latter half of 1988, sampling from North Carolina through Louisiana is stratified by one-month rather than two-month waves. One-month estimates are aggregated to report estimates for bi-monthly waves.
- 1987: Estimates specific to Monroe County, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle (Escambia to Bay County) are aggregated to report total estimates for all of West Florida.
- 1981: Sampling is stratified by state, county, and two-month wave, and divided into two-week sampling periods. Each sampling period spans the last week of one wave and the first week of the following wave. Sampling is drawn without replacement within strata, as well as among strata within a year.
- 1979: The CHTS is implemented.
Large Pelagics Survey (LPS)
- 2005: Survey management and estimation are transferred from the Sustainable Fisheries Office, Highly Migratory Species Division to the Office of Science and Technology, Fisheries Statistics Division. Improvements are made to survey design, quality assurance, quality control, and the dissemination of information.
- 2002: The LPS is redesigned to generate monthly estimates of bluefin tuna and other large pelagic fish. Site clustering is introduced for dockside assignments.
- 1995: The LPS is simplified to consist of an access point intercept survey and a telephone survey.
- 1992: Sampling levels are increased to generate seasonal estimates of bluefin tuna by size category (small and medium-sized). Annual estimates of giant bluefin tuna, other tunas, billfishes, swordfish, and sharks are still produced.
- 1986: The LPS is implemented. It includes three components: an access point intercept survey, a telephone survey, and a dockside mark-recapture survey. Data are used to produce total recreational catch estimates for tuna, billfish, sharks, and other large pelagic fish.
For-Hire Survey (FHS)
- 2011: A pilot study tests mandatory paper or electronic logbook reporting in the Gulf of Mexico.
- 2010: The sampling rate of for-hire operators in the Gulf of Mexico is increased from 10 to 40 percent to track the financial and fishing impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
- 2000: The FHS is implemented from Florida to Louisiana. It is extended to East Florida in 2002, and implemented from Maine through Georgia in 2003.
- 1997: NOAA Fisheries, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, and Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana initiate a pilot project to estimate charter boat fishing effort through a weekly telephone survey.