Jan. 10, 2017


New Report Finds Significant Improvements in Methods to Collect Data on Recreational Fishing

WASHINGTON – Although individual anglers – people who fish recreationally – generally take small numbers of fish, collectively, a large number of them can have a substantial impact on the overall stock.  For some species, the recreational catch even exceeds the amount taken by the commercial sector.  Because recreational fishing involves so many individuals fishing from many different locations, it is difficult to estimate the number of fish caught – a crucial piece of information required for assessing and managing fisheries.

To collect this information, the National Marine Fisheries Service started a survey program in 1979 – the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS). In 2006, the National Academies reviewed the MRFSS and called for a significant redesign.  Over the past decade, the National Marine Fisheries Service has been responding to the recommendations made in that report with a redesigned program, the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP).

Now, a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says MRIP has made significant improvements in gathering information through redesigned surveys, strengthening the quality of data. Although many of the major recommendations from the 2006 report have been addressed, some challenges remain, such as incorporating technological advances for data collection and enhancing communication with anglers and some other stakeholders. 

To estimate the number of fish taken recreationally, MRIP employs surveys that collect data regarding anglers’ fishing trips and the quantity and species of fish caught. Using statistical analysis, the data collected provide fishery scientists with catch estimates that can be used to assess marine fish stocks and make management decisions.

One of the main components of MRIP is the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS), which gathers information via interviews at shore or boat access points. APAIS collects information about fishing locations, the species and number of fish caught, the gear used, and the length of the trip.  The report notes several APAIS improvements, including a standardized schedule for interviewing anglers at access sites during the day as well as night. The interviewers may examine the catch for species identification and may also weigh and measure the catch.  In some cases, interviewers accompany anglers on for-hire boats to collect data on the catch. 

The other primary component of MRIP is the Fishing Effort Survey (FES), which estimates the number of trips taken by anglers.  The committee that wrote the report found that new methodologies used in the current FES, such as the address-based mail survey, resolve many of the shortcomings associated with the random digit dialing approach used in previous phone surveys.  To enhance the quality of this survey, the report recommends adding a specific question on fishing location, such as whether private or public-access sites are used.  

The report states that the overall statistical soundness of the redesigned program is expected to lead to better estimates of total fish caught.  However, there are still some statistical challenges to address, for example those related to missing data such as refusals to complete the interview during a survey, language barriers, or lack of response to the mail survey by some anglers.  Such missing values may affect estimates if the behavior of non-responding fishers is different from those who participate in the survey.  The report also notes that communications with anglers about the role of the national program have not resolved the anglers’ lack of confidence in the survey methodology.  The committee recommended that MRIP develop a national communications strategy involving state and federal partners to educate fishers and stakeholders on the role of MRIP. 

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Commerce.  The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine.  They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.  For more information, visit http://national-academies.org.  A roster follows.


Riya V. Anandwala, Media Relations Officer
Rebecca Ray, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail news@nas.edu

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Copies of Review of the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) are available at www.nap.edu or by calling 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).


Division on Earth and Life Studies
Ocean Studies Board 

Committee on the Review of the Marine Recreational Information Program

Luiz Barbieri (co-chair)
Science and Research Director
Marine Fisheries Research Program
Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
St. Petersburg, Fla.

Cynthia M. Jones (co-chair)
Professor and Eminent Scholar
Department of Ocean, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences
Old Dominion University
Norfolk, Va.

Jill Dever
Senior Statistician
RTI International
Washington, D.C.

David Haziza
Dpeartment of Mathematics and Statistics
University of Montreal
Ottawa, Quebec

Jeffrey C. Johnson
Professor of Anthropology
University of Florida

Bruce Leaman
Executive Director
International Pacific Halibut Commission

Thomas Miller
Professor of Fisheries, Bioenergetics, and Population Dynamics, and
Chesapeake Biological Laboratory
Center for Environmental Science
University of Maryland

Sean P. Powers
Professor and Chair of Marine Sciences
University of South Alabama, and
Senior Marine Scientist
Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Steve Williams
Senior Program Manager
Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission
Portland, Ore.


Stacee Karras
Study Director