Marine Recreational Information Program Research
NOAA Fisheries funds and conducts research to improve methods of collecting recreational fishing data and estimating recreational catch.
NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program funds and conducts research to improve recreational fishing data collection across the United States. This allows the program and its partners to keep pace with emerging science and information needs while producing the high-quality data that support science and management.
The MRIP Research and Evaluation Team reviews and approves all project proposals, status reports, and findings. The Program Management Team determines whether actions must be taken to ensure a project’s products (e.g., scientific or statistical information) meet NOAA’s Information Quality Guidelines. If a project is found to include influential scientific information, it will undergo external independent peer review.
All of the projects funded by the program since 2008 can be found in the MRIP Projects Database. Select projects and workshop reports related to statistical precision, electronic reporting technologies, and specific survey designs are highlighted below.
Improving the Angler Intercept Survey
In response to a recommendation from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the Marine Recreational Information Program developed improved sampling and estimation procedures for the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey. A Replication Approach to Controlled Selection for Catch Sampling Intercept Surveys (PDF, 9 pages) describes the probability-based sampling design for selecting site-day primary sampling units. Improved Estimation Methods for the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (PDF, 61 pages) describes the design-based, weighted estimation method for estimating catch rate and its variance using the APAIS data. A Pilot Study of a New Sampling Design for the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (PDF, 222 pages) evaluates the feasibility of implementing this new sampling design and its effects on various measures of survey performance.
Informing the Fishing Effort Survey Design
The Fishing Effort Survey is the result of extensive testing and analysis. Pilot studies that informed improvements to our survey of shore and private boat fishing effort include:
- Pilot Test of a Dual-Frame Two-Phase Mail Survey of Anglers in North Carolina (2010) (PDF, 117 pages)
- A Comparison of Recreational Fishing Effort Survey Designs (2012) (PDF, 78 pages)
- Testing a Dual-Frame, Mixed-Mode Survey Design (2013) (PDF, 36 pages)
- Testing a Mail Survey Design (2014) (PDF, 56 pages)
- A Comparison of Recall Error in Recreational Fisheries Surveys with One and Two-Month Reference Periods (2015) (PDF, 22 pages)
- Evaluating a Gatekeeper Effect in the Coastal Household Telephone Survey (2018) (PDF, 6 pages)
Calibrating New and Historical Catch Estimates
Transitioning to new data collection or estimation methodologies may require benchmarking, wherein old and new methods are implemented side-by-side, and calibration, which accounts for the sources of variation that may contribute to consistent differences between old and new estimates. The Marine Recreational Information Program has convened the following calibration workshops to support its transition to new estimation methodologies and new and improved survey designs:
- MRFSS-MRIP Calibration Workshop (2012): A workshop to consider methods to convert Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey estimates to a currency that is comparable to Marine Recreational Information Program estimates.
- MRIP Calibration Workshop (2014): A workshop to consider calibration needs in response to changes to the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey.
- FES Calibration Workshop (2017): A workshop to conduct the peer review of proposed methods to convert Coastal Household Telephone Survey estimates to a currency that is comparable to Fishing Effort Survey estimates.
- APAIS Calibration Workshop (2018): A workshop to conduct the peer review of proposed methods to convert Access Point Angler Intercept Survey estimates produced before 2013 to a currency that is comparable to those produced by the improved APAIS design.
Developing and Implementing Gulf State Recreational Red Snapper Surveys
The Marine Recreational Information Program has convened five workshops to support the development and implementation of state surveys designed to provide more timely and precise estimates of Gulf of Mexico red snapper catch. Red Snapper Recreational Catch Accounting Methods Workshop I (PDF, 5 pages), Workshop II (PDF, 7 pages), and Workshop III (PDF, 7 pages) took place between 2013 and 2014, and focused on coordinating between state, regional, and federal partners; meeting science and management needs; and integrating new state-run surveys into the Marine Recreational Information Program. Workshop IV—held in 2018—explored how a comparable time series of catch estimates could be maintained within and across states using different data collection designs. Workshop V—held in 2020—invited Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida to present simple ratio-based calibrations to convert between state and federal catch estimates.
Investigating the Impacts of Variable Catch Estimate Precision
The Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program requested Marine Recreational Information Program support investigating how different levels of statistical precision—as expressed by an estimate’s percent standard error, or PSE—affect the assessment and management of fish stocks. State and federal scientists and managers were invited to share their perspectives on PSE targets, as documented in Proceedings of the Workshop on Percent Standard Error (PSE) of Recreational Fishing Data (PDF, 276 pages). While workshop participants did not reach consensus on a single target PSE that could be considered acceptable in all situations, there was general agreement that:
- Data with a PSE of 40% or below provides valid input to stock assessment models.
- Data with PSEs between 40% and 60% should be used with caution.
- Data with a PSE of 60% or above should only be used with extreme caution.
This workshop helped inform the precision publication threshold that will be implemented as part of NOAA Fisheries’ Recreational Fishing Survey and Data Standards (Standard 7.2.3).
Exploring Alternative Estimation Methods for Rare-event Species
For those species that are rarely encountered during field interviews, our standard estimation approach may produce highly variable estimates that are difficult to use in the setting of annual catch limits. Improving Estimation of Rare-event Species (PDF, 9 pages) investigates whether alternative estimation methods—more specifically, measuring average catch per trip as calculated over multiple years—would produce estimates that are more stable over time.
Evaluating Electronic Reporting Technologies
Tablet-based Field Data Collection
The Marine Recreational Information Program has funded and/or conducted multiple pilot studies to evaluate the use of tablet-based data collection systems (including hardware and software) and to measure improvements in the efficiency of data capture and the quality of data obtained.
- Evaluation of Electronic Data Capture Hardware and Application for the Washington Ocean Sampling Program (2014) (PDF, 8 pages)
- Evaluation of Electronic Data Collection System for Atlantic Coast Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (2015) (PDF, 101 pages)
- Evaluation of Electronic Data Collection System for Oregon Recreational Groundfish Observers (2016) (PDF, 42 pages)
A Web-push Design for Estimating Recreational Fishing Effort (2018)
In response to a recommendation from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the Marine Recreational Information Program completed a pilot study to compare its existing Fishing Effort Survey design with a mailing that encouraged (or “pushed”) recipients to complete an online questionnaire before a paper questionnaire was provided. Testing a Web-push Design for Estimating Recreational Fishing Effort (PDF, 44 pages) evaluates the web-push design using several survey performance metrics. Note: The results of the pilot can only be applied to the specific web-push design that was tested, and should not be considered relevant to other web-based instruments or online (mobile) reporting applications. Findings include:
- The web-push design decreased response rates.
- The web-push design decreased the timeliness of data collection.
- A web-push design is not as effective as our current survey approach.
Angler Reporting Apps
The Marine Recreational Information Program has contributed to multiple reports on the potential uses of mobile applications in collecting recreational fishing data and producing population-level estimates of recreational catch.
- Research and Evaluation Team Review of the iAngler and iSnapper Reporting Programs (2019) (PDF, 15 pages) identifies the strengths and limitations of two data collection program designs that use opt-in, or non-mandatory, smartphone applications to collect information from anglers. It also summarizes an external review (Electronic Reporting in Survey Research Applied to Estimating Fishing Effort (PDF, 93 pages)) of the sampling approach that informed them. Finally, it includes recommendations for further research. The web feature NOAA Fisheries Evaluates Role of Opt-in Angler Reporting Apps in Recreational Fisheries summarized this report.
- A Review of Nonprobability Sampling Using Mobile Apps for Fishing Effort and Catch Surveys (2021) explores whether data collected as part of a non-probability sample through a mobile app can produce the recreational catch and effort estimates needed for fisheries policy decisions. It examines current approaches to collecting recreational fishing data, outlines the potential biases of both probability and non-probability designs, and describes the challenges non-probability surveys must face if they are to produce high-quality estimates. It also describes potential uses for non-probability survey data, such as the documentation of shifts in marine species ranges, occurrences of invasive species, or observations of fish health.
- Data and Management Strategies for Recreational Fisheries with Annual Catch Limits (2021) considers the use of mobile apps in improving the timeliness of recreational fishing data, but does not include recommendations for NOAA Fisheries or its partners to further explore or use apps as a mode of data collection.
Note: An Opt-in Angler Panel Workshop (PDF, 10 pages) held in 2012 explored how data submitted by self-selected volunteer anglers could be used and how such data collection programs might establish and sustain angler enthusiasm and support.
For-Hire Electronic Reporting Options
The Marine Recreational Information Program has funded multiple pilot studies to evaluate electronic data collection systems that would support the complete, accurate, and timely reporting of for-hire (charter and headboat) catch and effort data.
- For-Hire Electronic Logbook Pilot Study in the Gulf of Mexico (2014) (PDF, 284 pages)
- Implementation of Electronic Logbooks on Headboats Operating in the U.S. South Atlantic (2010) (PDF, 38 pages)