Recreational Data

The Fisheries Information System program works with NOAA Fisheries Marine Recreation Information Program (MRIP) to collect data on what is happening in our recreational fisheries. MRIP counts and reports marine recreational catch and effort. It is an angler-driven initiative that produces recreational fisheries information through a process grounded in the principles of transparency, accountability and engagement.

How we collect recreational fishing data

MRIP collects information from recreational anglers about how often they are going fishing and what they are catching using a system of surveys.  Just like polls that predict such things as Presidential elections within a few percentage points, NOAA Fisheries surveys can determine total catch by surveying a few thousand saltwater anglers.

Most current angler surveys separately sample anglers’ catch rate and effort (the number of fishing trips they make), and then incorporate a statistical procedure to estimate total catch. Catch and effort information is gathered separately to ensure we get the most complete and accurate results possible. This means the survey program is comprised of two parts:

In-Person Intercepts – NOAA Fisheries contractors and state agency employees work together, serving as in-field samplers to conduct angler surveys.  Samplers may work at marinas, boat ramps, and shore fishing sites to interview anglers about their trips and count, weigh, and measure their catch.  From that information, gathered over time and in various locales, the average catch per trip is estimated. 

Telephone Interviews – NOAA Fisheries hires telephone interviewers who randomly contact households in coastal communities (a practice known as “random digit dialing”), and operators of charter boats and headboats. When a saltwater angler is found and agrees to participate in an interview, he or she is asked the number of trips they took in the preceding two months (a frequency known as a “wave”). Similarly, charter boats and headboat captains provide information about the number of trips and anglers their boats took over the sampling period. From this information the total number of trips is estimated.

Total catch is then estimated by combining these two independent sets of data, using the following formula:  Catch per Trip  x  Number of Trips  =  Total Catch.

This is the general approach to surveying anglers for the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii and Puerto Rico fisheries.  In practice, MRIP uses several different surveys depending on the mode of fishing or area of the country. To read more about MRIP’s system of specialized surveys, please visit the survey overview page of the MRIP website.

Why this is important

Recreational fishing statistics are part of a much larger science and management system.  Estimates of recreational catch and effort are combined with catch data we collect from commercial fisheries, fisheries-independent data collected by scientists, and information about what is going on in other parts of the world.  All these sources are taken into account when fisheries scientists assess stocks and set catch limits and when fisheries managers create regulations. These data allow us to constantly evaluate, and respond to, the ongoing health and sustainability of our fisheries.