Recreational Fishing Data
Sustainable fishing begins and ends with fishermen. Recreational anglers support the long-term health of ocean fisheries by serving as our eyes and ears on the water and sharing information on their fishing activities. NOAA Fisheries works with state and local partners through the Marine Recreational Information Program to count and report this information. Through MRIP, we develop, improve, and implement surveys that measure how many trips saltwater anglers take and how many fish they catch. This vital information—combined with other data such as commercial catch and biological research—enables scientists and managers to assess and maintain sustainable U.S. fish stocks.
4000+ active survey sites
Our partners conduct in-person surveys of recreational anglers at public access fishing sites in 19 states and territories. Explore the Public Accessing Fishing Site Register for detailed information about every publicly accessible fishing site including marinas, boat ramps, piers, beaches, and jetties.
61 million recreational fishing trips
In 2015, approximately 9 million recreational saltwater anglers took 61 million saltwater fishing trips around the United States. The number of trips taken (or effort) is an important measurement used by our program to determine total catch estimates each year.
Your Fishing Counts
Effectively safeguarding our ocean resources requires the cooperation of a broad network of people, including recreational anglers. The Marine Recreational Information Program works closely with recreational anglers and other stakeholders to collect accurate and reliable information critical to ensuring healthy fish stocks and vibrant coastal communities.
Counting Your Fishing
Better data means better fishing for you! You play a critical role in helping inform fishery management decisions when you share how often you fish (your effort) and what you catch per trip (your catch rate).
Our state and regional partners are the backbone of the data collection effort and most often serve as the primary connection between NOAA Fisheries and recreational anglers. We use the information gathered by our state and regional partners to calculate estimates.
How it Works
Have you ever wondered how our scientists use your data to estimate stocks? One of our goals is to be transparent about the concepts and methods we use to design surveys that count angler catch, why we use them, and how they work.
Using the Data
Our data is your data and can be used in valuable ways by our partners, recreational anglers, and others interested in the information we use to produce recreational fishing estimates. We also provide insight on how to use our data tools and some of the data’s limitations.
We are continuously working to improve how we collect, analyze, and report information. By improving current methods and developing new ones, our program supports the monitoring tools needed to accurately track fishing catch and effort in each region.
Collecting Your Data
Recreational anglers provide us with important information about how often they fish (effort) and what they catch per trip (catch rate) through a system of surveys. Many of our surveys are conducted year-round and involve interviews with thousands of anglers. Information from these surveys is combined with other sources of data—including commercial catch, biological research, and direct observation of what's happening in a given fishery—to inform management decisions.
How We Count Your Catch
We need a variety of information to produce estimates of total catch. To gather this data, we use several different surveys, each with a unique and specific purpose, depending on the mode (type) of fishing or region. Most of our current surveys sample for catch rate and effort information separately so that we ensure the most complete and accurate results possible.
State and Regional Partners
Our state and regional partners are crucial to accurately and effectively determine recreational fishing activity. The survey data that anglers provide to their state agency representatives are the same data used by us to produce catch estimates. Our partners select the MRIP-certified survey methods most appropriate for their regions and manage the data collection.
Types of Surveys
Estimating recreational fishing catch and effort for the entire United States is too complex to be done with a one-size-fits-all survey. We use a suite of different surveys to capture recreational catch and effort from people who fish by different modes. Modes surveyed include fishing from shore, private boats, charter boats, and headboats/party boats. Additional surveys are used to gather data from people who target large pelagic species and highly migratory species such as tuna and billfish.
Producing the Estimates
Transparency is one of our core values, achieved through open access to our products, tools, and processes. This section provides a detailed look at the methods we use to count angler catch, why we use them, and how they work together to produce estimates of total recreational catch.
Introduction to Survey Statistics
By sampling a subset of a population—in this case fishermen and fisheries—we are able to use statistics to understand the characteristics of the whole population. Sampling and estimation can be extremely complex. However, we experience results from sampling in our everyday lives; for example, political polling, health statistics, and television ratings.
Estimating Total Recreational Catch
Generally speaking, to estimate total recreational catch, we need to estimate both the catch per angler trip (catch rate) and the number of angler trips (effort).
Catch rate is the estimated average catch per angler trip. An angler trip is an individual fishing trip taken by a single angler; it can be for any amount of time, whether it is half an hour or an entire day. Catch rates are estimated using data about catch from interviews of fishermen as they complete fishing trips. From these interviews, we can estimate (per angler trip):
- What species are being caught.
- How many fish are being caught.
- How many fish are kept.
- How many fish are discarded and the condition of the discarded fish.
- Size and weight of fish caught.
Fishing effort refers to the estimated number of angler fishing trips taken. Currently, fishing effort is estimated by conducting telephone and mail surveys of coastal households and for-hire boat captains, as well as on-site survey methods in some regions. From these interviews, we can estimate:
- How many people are fishing.
- Where people are fishing.
- How often people go fishing.
State and regional partners use a system of surveys to gather the information needed to generate these estimates. Once our scientists have this data, they use two methods of estimation.
Using the Data
In collaboration with our state and regional partners, we collect data throughout the year to generate estimates of catch and effort for two-month periods, known as “waves.” Survey data and preliminary estimates are posted every two months, with survey data and final estimates posted each spring for the preceding year. A variety of tools are available to help improve access to, and understanding of, available data.
Introduction to Marine Recreational Information Program Data
The information we use to produce recreational fishing estimates is available to the public, allowing partners and stakeholders to use those data in valuable ways. Before getting started with MRIP data, take some time to learn more about what is available for use, how and why the data are collected, how to use our data queries, and some limitations on how the data can be used.
Using the Data for Fisheries Management
Fisheries management decisions, including size and catch limits and the length of fishing seasons, are based on a continuous cycle of collecting data, assessing fishery health, setting catch targets, and making effective regulations to keep those targets from being exceeded. Our goal is to ensure that fisheries remain productive and sustainable now and for generations to come.
How You Can Access and Use MRIP Data
MRIP data is your data. There are a variety of ways to access the information we use to estimate recreational fishing activity, including customizable queries and full dataset downloads. You can also search our online tool for locating public access fishing sites and help us keep it accurate and up to date.
We are continuously working to improve how we collect, analyze, and report information. Through improvements to current methods, the development of new approaches, and the integration of emerging technologies, the Marine Recreational Information Program supports the monitoring tools needed to accurately track fishing catch and effort in each region.
To ensure the highest quality data for use in fisheries management, we work with our partners in a continuous process to develop and implement improvements. The process produces recommended changes that adhere to rigorous national standards, while remaining flexible enough to meet unique regional needs.
Our success is based on vital input from our state and regional partners, stakeholders, and external reviews. To ensure that management decisions are made with the most accurate information possible, we are committed to ongoing improvements to our survey and estimation methods.
Since 2008, the program has funded survey improvement projects and survey program reviews in all regions of the U.S. and its territories. Projects include using electronic reporting tools, improving effort estimates via mail surveys, and increasing the precision of estimates.
To promote nationwide consistency in recreational catch and effort data, we use a rigorous certification process for assuring that survey and estimation methods are scientifically sound. Once certified, the method is available for potential funding and use by our state and regional partners.