Recreational Fishing Data
Recreational Fishing Data
NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program is the state-regional-federal partnership that develops, improves, and implements a national network of recreational fishing surveys to estimate total recreational catch. Our recreational fisheries statistics help scientists and managers assess and maintain sustainable fish stocks.
NOAA Fisheries maintains a central role in developing data collection and estimation methods, administering recreational fishing surveys, and producing recreational fisheries statistics. Regional and state partners identify data collection priorities, coordinate survey operations, and participate in quality assurance and quality control procedures.
There are several ways to access our recreational fishing data. You can use the query tool to filter recreational fisheries statistics by time series, geographic area, species, mode, and other characteristics. You can also download our public-use datasets and template programs to perform your own custom analyses. To be notified of updates to our data, estimates, and queries, subscribe to our email service.
NOAA Fisheries has made significant improvements to how we collect, analyze, and report recreational fishing data. We continue to leverage emerging science and statistical expertise to meet stock assessment and management needs. Our survey and estimation methods undergo extensive testing, evaluation, and peer review. Our survey and data standards help ensure the integrity of our data collection efforts and the quality of our recreational fisheries statistics. And our data review process minimizes the potential for errors in the information we publish.
Modern Fish Act Reports
The Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2018 requires NOAA Fisheries to report on certain aspects of the Marine Recreational Information Program’s work. As of June 2022, the agency has submitted the following reports:
- MRIP Response to National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2017 Recommendations
- The MRIP Plan for State Partnerships
- MRIP Report on State Partnerships
A report on our response to the recommendation in a 2021 National Academies review is under development.
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.
NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program works with state and regional partners to implement a national network of recreational fishing surveys. We use data collected from anglers and for-hire operators to estimate the number of fish anglers catch and the number of trips they take. These recreational catch and effort estimates help scientists and managers assess and maintain sustainable fish stocks.
How We Collect Data
From in-person interviews to electronic reporting, different methods of data collection help us gather information from the recreational fishing community. The Marine Recreational Information Program does not administer private angler reporting apps or for-hire electronic logbooks. However, electronic reporting technologies do support the conduct of our Access Point Intercept Survey.
Our Network of Recreational Fishing Surveys
Unique regions have unique fisheries, fishing communities, and preferred methods of collecting recreational fishing data. For this reason, our recreational fishing surveys are regionally specific. While our partnership includes more than 25 data collection programs across the United States, program staff at NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Science and Technology administer four recreational fishing surveys in Hawaii and along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Our three general surveys—which include the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey, Fishing Effort Survey, and For-Hire Survey—provide annual catch estimates for all species encountered. Our specialized Large Pelagics Survey provides annual catch estimates for select fisheries during a select fishing season.
More About This Topic
NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program provides open access to the information needed to understand the recreational fishing data that inform science and management decisions and the way these data were produced.
The exact number and species of finfish caught by marine recreational anglers is impossible to determine, because one complete marine recreational fishing census is impossible to administer or verify. But we can be confident in our recreational catch estimates because they are derived from sound survey methods. These methods have been developed, tested, and reviewed by independent experts in survey design. Sampling populations, weighting sampled units, and accounting for errors, outliers, and uncertainty are important steps in our work to estimate recreational catch.
At its core, estimating total recreational catch involves multiplying catch rate (the average number of fish caught per angler trip) by effort (the total number of fishing trips taken). Each step of our estimation process also involves statistical weighting. This 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.
Stock assessors and fisheries managers base their work on continuous, uninterrupted time series of fisheries statistics. The transition to new or improved recreational fishing survey designs can disrupt this time series, producing new estimates that aren't directly comparable to legacy estimates. Calibration is a statistical process that accounts for the drivers of differences between two data sets. While there is no "one size fits all" calibration method, the purpose of calibration is always the same: to allow estimates from one survey design to be expressed in the units, or "currency," of another. This process maintains one consistent time series when survey methods change.
Using the Data
NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program provides open access to the data collected by its recreational fishing surveys and the calculated statistical values produced from this information.
Data Queries, Downloads, and Updates
There are several ways to access our recreational fishing data. You can use the query tool to filter recreational fisheries statistics by time series, geographic area, species, mode, and other characteristics. You can also download our public-use datasets and template programs to perform your own custom analyses. A complete list of updates to our data, estimates, and queries can be found on our Recreational Fishing Estimate Updates page. To be notified of these updates, subscribe to our email service.
Guidance for Data Users
An Introduction to MRIP Data provides an overview of our data products; collection, estimation, and publication schedules; review processes; and use considerations. MRIP Survey Design and Statistical Methods describes the technical details of our recreational fishing surveys, as well as the methods we use to produce catch and effort estimates. The MRIP Data User Handbook and accompanying MRIP Data User Seminar Series provide more detailed information about downloading, exporting, querying, and performing custom statistical analyses.
Our Data’s Role in Science and Management
Our recreational catch estimates are an important source of consistent catch information for monitoring and assessing U.S. fish stocks. Our estimates are combined with commercial catch data, biological research, and information gathered from direct observations of fisheries to help scientists assess stock size and sustainable harvest levels. Fisheries managers use this information to set regulations that promote the long-term health of fish populations.
Ensuring Sound Science
NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program is committed to leveraging emerging science and statistical expertise to meet stock assessment and management needs.
Funding and conducting research to review and improve recreational fishing data collection allows us to keep pace with emerging science and information needs while producing the high-quality data that support science and management.
Survey and Data Standards
To promote data quality, consistency, and comparability across our recreational fishing surveys, we've established a suite of survey and data standards. These standards reflect best practices currently in place at the U.S. Census Bureau, National Center for Health Statistics, and other federal agencies, as well as statistical survey guidelines published by the Office of Management and Budget. Ultimately, the standards will further ensure the integrity of our data collection efforts, the quality of our recreational fisheries statistics, and the strength of science-based management decisions.
Survey Design Certification
Our process for reviewing the statistical rigor of a recreational fishing survey design is known as certification. To earn certification, survey designs and estimation methods must adhere to applicable standards and pass a peer review. For new surveys to inform the federal stock assessments and management decisions, survey sponsors must develop and execute a Transition Plan. These plans describe how historical estimates will be places into the "currency" of the new or improved design.
We follow best practices to minimize the potential for error in our estimates. Our quality assurance procedures prevent invalid data from entering our system. Our quality control procedures help us detect and correct errors that make it into our data.
We have participated in several independent programmatic reviews. In all cases, we have used the resulting recommendations to improve how we collect, analyze, and report recreational fishing data. In recent years, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have recognized our state-of-the-art sampling methods, critically important data, and impressive progress in improving the statistical rigor of our survey designs.
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Outreach & Education
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This rack card explains how NOAA Fisheries collects recreational fishing data from for-hire…
This rack card explains how NOAA Fisheries collects recreational fishing data from for-hire vessels…