Recreational Fishing Data
Recreational Fishing Data
Through the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), NOAA Fisheries and its state, regional, and federal partners use in-person, telephone, and mail fishing surveys to measure the number of trips saltwater anglers take and the number of fish they catch. When combined with commercial catch data, biological research, and direct observation of a fishery, these recreational catch and effort estimates help scientists and managers assess and maintain sustainable U.S. fish stocks.
While NOAA Fisheries maintains a central role in developing survey methods and establishing national standards and best practices, MRIP Regional Implementation Teams are responsible for selecting survey methods and managing data collection. State resource agencies collect data directly from anglers and ensure our surveys are administered as designed.
Estimating total recreational catch is a statistical challenge. The process of survey certification ensures our methods are scientifically sound. The process of data review minimizes the potential for error in our estimates. Perhaps most importantly, anglers and for-hire operators act as our eyes and ears on the water, supporting the long-term health of marine fisheries by sharing accurate information about their fishing trips.
Effort Survey Improvements
In 2018, MRIP transitioned to a mail effort survey of shore and private boat anglers in Hawaii and on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. While the effort estimates derived from the new Fishing Effort Survey (FES) are much higher than the estimates derived from our previous effort survey, higher effort estimates do not necessarily mean there are more people fishing or fewer fish to catch. In fact, our research indicates this increase in effort estimates is due not to a sudden increase in fishing, but to the fact that the FES more accurately captures the amount of fishing taking place.
The MRIP Electronic Reporting Action Plan commits the program to assessing the current status and future potential of electronic reporting options for private anglers, evaluating the inclusion of an online reporting option for the mail FES, and advancing electronic reporting in recreational fishing data collection programs.
185 million fishing trips
In 2018, anglers in Hawaii and along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts took almost 185 million saltwater fishing trips. Two-thirds of those trips took place from shore.
3,000+ active survey sites
Our partners interview anglers at thousands of marinas, boat ramps, beaches, and other publicly accessible fishing sites across 16 coastal states.
3 general fishing surveys
The Access Point Angler Intercept Survey, Fishing Effort Survey, and For-Hire Survey collect data on all of the species anglers catch.
4 certified state surveys
In Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, alternative general and specialized surveys help us produce more precise estimates of recreational catch.
How We Collect Data
In-person interviews, telephone and mail surveys, and electronic reporting are methods we use to collect information from private anglers and for-hire operators. While we could never collect data from all saltwater anglers, surveying a representative sample allows us to estimate catch and effort for the entire marine recreational fishing population.
How We Estimate Recreational Catch
The calculations we use to produce catch estimates can be understood as expanding catch rate, or the estimated number of fish caught per angler trip, by effort, or the estimated number of fishing trips taken in a two-month period.
Explore Our Data
Our searchable database of catch, effort, and fishing participation statistics allows users to filter our data by time series, geographic area, species, mode, and other characteristics.
Find a Fishing Site
Our searchable database of marinas, boat ramps, beaches, and other publicly accessible fishing sites on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts includes information about site usage and amenities, and helps us determine where we should conduct in-person angler interviews.
Collecting Your Data
The Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) consists of a national network of regional surveys that collect important information from anglers and for-hire operators. Information from these surveys is combined with commercial catch data, biological research, and direct observations of fisheries to help scientists and managers assess and maintain sustainable U.S. fish stocks now and for generations to come.
How We Collect Data
From in-person interviews to electronic reporting, different methods of data collection help us gather information about recreational fishing.
Types of Recreational Fishing Surveys
To estimate recreational catch for the entire United States, we use a suite of surveys to collect information from anglers and for-hire operators. We pair general surveys—which provide annual catch estimates for all species encountered—with supplemental and specialized surveys—which collect data for select fisheries or during select fishing seasons—to develop more comprehensive recreational fisheries statistics.
State and Regional Partners
State and regional partners provide vital support of our efforts to accurately and effectively estimate total recreational catch. The information anglers and for-hire operators provide state agency and other NOAA Fisheries representatives is the information we use to estimate catch.
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Producing the Estimates
The Marine Recreational Information Program strives to be transparent about its work to collect recreational fishing data and produce recreational catch statistics.
An Introduction to Survey Statistics
Sampling allows us to collect information from part of a population to determine the characteristics of an entire population. Sampling populations, calculating weighted estimates, and preventing and accounting for errors are important steps in our work to produce recreational catch statistics.
Learn more about survey statistics
Estimating Total Recreational Catch
To estimate total recreational catch, we multiply catch rate—or the number of fish caught per fishing trip—by effort—or the total number of fishing trips taken. To estimate catch rate and effort, we use a statistical method known as weighted estimation. Weighted estimation ensures important aspects of our sample design—like the fact that some fishing sites are more likely to be selected as a sample location or some anglers are more likely to participate in a fishing survey—are correctly reflected in our final estimates. This approach is necessary to produce unbiased estimates from the catch and effort data collected through our recreational fishing surveys.
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Using the Data
The Marine Recreational Information Program works with state and regional partners to collect recreational fishing data throughout the year.
Data Queries, Downloads, and Updates
There are several ways to access the information we use to estimate recreational fishing activity. You can download full datasets and statistical analysis software template programs, or use our query tool to filter catch, effort, and participation data by time series, geographic area, species, mode, and other characteristics.
Recreational Fishing Data’s Role in Fisheries Management
Recreational catch estimates are combined with commercial catch estimates, biological information, and direct observations of fisheries to help scientists assess the health of fish stocks. Stock assessments produce reports that help fisheries managers set rules and regulations to protect the sustainability of stocks now and for generations to come.
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In its 2006 review of marine recreational fishing surveys, the National Research Council recommended the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS)—the precursor to the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP)—make fundamental changes to its data collection and estimation methods. When the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act was reauthorized, it echoed this call for improved angler surveys. As a result, we changed the way we collect information, estimate total recreational catch, and work with our partners and stakeholders to set priorities and improve our program.
How We've Improved
Since MRIP replaced MRFSS in 2008, we’ve worked to improve how we collect, analyze, and report recreational fishing information. By improving our existing methods, developing new methods, and integrating emerging technologies into our work, we are able to support the monitoring that is needed to accurately report total recreational catch.
Our Improvement Process
We improve our methods of data collection by evaluating existing methods and developing, testing, and implementing new or improved survey designs. This continuous process of improvement produces recreational fishing surveys that meet national standards and regional needs and support recreational fisheries management.
Our Survey Certification Process
To ensure recreational catch and effort data are derived from methods that are scientifically sound, we have established a comprehensive and collaborative catch and effort survey certification process. Certified survey and estimation methods meet a shared set of standards and undergo independent peer review. Supporting the development and certification of new catch and effort survey designs demonstrates our commitment to helping state and regional partners meet their unique data needs.
This document answers questions raised during field interviews, listening sessions, and…
This report describes the agency's survey of marine recreational fishing trips, as it was conducted…
2020 Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Recreational Season Length Estimates for the Federal For-Hire Component
The purpose of this report is to project the 2020 recreational red snapper federal for-hire fishing…
Outreach & Education
This fact sheet explains the differences between new and legacy estimates of recreational saltwater…
This fact sheet answers common questions about the Marine Recreational Information Program's angler…
This rack card explains how the Marine Recreational Information Program uses angler information to…