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NOAA FISHERIES: Office of Science and Technology

Query Glossary


There are four options for summarizing estimates,

  • "By wave", which provides estimates for each two-month reference period,
  • "Annual", which provides summary across an entire year,
  • "Cummulative", which provides total year-to-date estimate, and
  • "Single wave", which allows you to select a single two-month reference period.
WAVE(S) Two-month  reference period  (e.g. Wave 1=January/February)

LPS estimates are available by month for sampled months, June - October. These months encompass the majority of LPS fishing along the Mid- and North Atlantic coasts.


For the MRIP/MRFSS Catch Estimates Comparison Query estimates are provided at the annual level for three selected year types,

  • Calendar year (Jan-Dec),
  • May Fishing Year (May 1 - Apr 30), and
  • July Fishing Year (July 1 - June 30).
Each range begins in the year selected, and continues into the next year, if appropriate. For example: If the YEAR=2009, and YEAR TYPE=July Fishing Year, then estimates would be summarized for July 1, 2009 through May 30, 2010.

Areas are arranged in geographical order by subregion. For example, the option "North Atlantic by State" will give you catch for the five states listed after that option (Maine through Connecticut ) on a state-by state basis. The "North Atlantic" option will give you the catch summed across the five states.

Florida is divided into two regions (east and west) in our survey, as is California (southern and northern). Selection of "Florida" under either subregion will give you the total for the whole state. Options for "Pacific Coast by Sub-Region" (S. California, N. California, Oregon, and Washington) and "Atlantic Coast" (Maine to East Florida) have been added to this selection group.

Sampling began in Puerto Rico in 2000 (Caribbean subregion).

LPS is conducted only in Atlantic coast states from Virginia through Maine. To complement NMFS HMS management, these states are divived into two regions: Southern (Virgina-Southern New Jersey) and Northern (Northern New Jersey through Maine). New Jersey is divided along the border of Atlantic and Ocean counties. Due to the limited scale of recreational LPS fishing, several states are combined into two state groups: Maryland/Delaware, Connecticut/Rhode Island, and New Hampshire/Maine.

HMS Catch Card programs are conducted only in Maryland and North Carolina.

SPECIES Common species are available using the pulldown menu, for other species use the "Species Assistance" button to the right of the menu.
Type of Catch

Type A catch are fish brought back to the dock in a form that can be identified by trained interviewers.

Type B1 catch are fish that are used for bait, released dead, or filleted -- i.e. they are killed but identification is by individual anglers.

Type B2 catch is fish that are released alive - again, identification is by individual anglers.


  • TOTAL CATCH = Type A + B1 + B2,
  • HARVEST = Type A + B1,
  • UNOBSERVED HARVEST = Type B1 only, and
  • RELEASED = Type B2 only

LPS catch types are limited to KEPT, ALIVE, and DEAD. KEPT refers to any fish retained by the vessel. ALIVE catch are only fish released from the vessel while still alive. DEAD refers only to dead fish discarded at sea.


Length distributions are available for selected species by inch group. Inches groups contain fish that were from X.00 to X.99 inches long. For example, inch group 9 means fish that are between 9.00 and 9.99 inches. These lengths are FORK lengths.


  • New MRIP weighted estimation methodology used for Louisiana - Maine, 2004 - present.
  • For prior years and other states (Hawaii, Puerto Rico), estimates are based on MRFSS methodology until MRIP estimation is available.

Percent of A+B1 Landings (no. of fish) and A+B1 Landings (no.-at-length) are provided by length group. Records with missing length group values indicate the numbers of A+B1 landings with no length information.

Percent Standard Error (PSE) is provided for MRIP based estimates of landings-at-length only.


INLAND means inshore saltwater and brackish water bodies such as bays, estuaries, sounds, etc. It does not include inland freshwater areas.

STATE TERRITORIAL SEA is a zone extending three nautical miles from shore for all states except for Puerto Rico and the Gulf coast of Florida where the seaward boundary is 3 marine leagues (approximately 10 statute miles). The state territorial seas do not include inland areas.

STATE WATERS is the combination of inland and state territorial seas.

The FEDERAL EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE (EEZ) is contiguous to the State Territorial Seas of all the United States and its possessions and extends seaward 200 nautical miles measured from the baseline from which the Territorial Sea is measured.

OCEAN is a combination of the State Territorial Sea and the EEZ

For a detailed breakdown of all modes, select ALL MODES BY MODE.

North Carolina is the only state to break SHORE mode into BEACH/BANK and MAN MADE.

The FOR-HIRE sector sampling varies over time. To see detailed breakdown of for-hire modes, select ALL MODES BY MODE:

  • 1981 - 1985: PARTY/CHARTER mode only. All for-hire boats (charter and head/party boat) were sampled as one category; a single PARTY/CHARTER mode estimate was produced (undifferentiated).
  • 1986 - 2004: PARTY/CHARTER mode continued in the Northeast states, Maine to Virginia. In the Southeast (North Carolina to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico states), CHARTER BOATS (only) were sampled by MRIP. Party (head) boats are surveyed by Southeast Head Boat Logbook Program which began in 1986 (not presenting in these estimates).
2005 - ongoing: CHARTER and PARTY (head) boats are sampled independently by the For-Hire Survey and stratified Angler Intercept Survey; separate CHARTER and PARTY (HEAD) boat estimates are produced. Undifferentiated PARTY/CHARTER sampling is no longer performed.

LPS and HMS Catch Card modes are limited to PRIVATE and CHARTER boat modes. PRIVATE mode includes vessels with either the HMS Angling category permit or Atlantic Tunas General category permit. CHARTER mode vessels vessels with the HMS Charter/Headboat category permit. Vessels targeting large pelagic species without an HMS permit are also included in the dockside intercept survey.


The PSE, or proportional standard error, expresses the standard error of an estimate as a percentage of the estimate and is a measure of precision.

  • Precision refers to the dispersion of sample measurements used to calculate an estimate and the resulting variability in the estimate.
  • Large PSEs indicate high variability around estimates and therefore low precision.
  • It is desirable to have small PSE's and more precise estimates.
  • There is a direct relationship between precision and sample size.
  • When we group year, state, wave, or mode estimates, sample size increases and so does precision.
  • Catch estimates for commonly caught species often are more precise than for rare event or pulse fisheries.

Data users should consider the width of confidence intervals surrounding estimates before drawing any far-reaching conclusions from point estimates.

  • A confidence interval is calculated as the estimate minus 1.96 times the standard error (the lower limit) and the estimate plus 1.96 times the standard error (the upper limit).
  • A 95% confidence interval means we are 95% sure that the true value lies between the lower limit and the upper limit.

Proportional Standard Error (PSE) is automatically included with requested information , with one exception.
The exception is the PSE for mean lengths.

  • Calculations of mean lengths involve weighting mean lengths by the estimated number of fish in a cell (state/wave/fishing mode/fishing area/species).
  • These calculations are quite complicated and rely on various assumptions.
  • Because of the assumptions, it is better that these calculations be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • Use of mean lengths is not as useful as length distributions and is not used widely.
  • Because of its limited use, we do not expect the absence of the PSE to cause any problems or lead to incorrect conclusions about a fishery.


Weight estimates are minimums and may not reflect the actual total weight landed or harvested.

Weight estimates are calculated by multiplying the estimated number harvested in a cell (year/wave/state/mode/area/species) by the mean weight of the measured fish in that cell. Sometimes we have an estimate of harvest but no mean weight, either because

  • the harvest is all reported by the anglers (B1), or
  • because for some reason the interviewers couldn't weigh any fish (fish too big, already gutted and gilled, etc.).

If a cell is missing a mean weight, and if we have at least two fish measured in the state (all fishing areas and modes combined),

  • We substitute the mean for the whole state for that wave.
  • We need two measured fish to get a variance estimate.

After state substitution, if the mean weight is still missing,

  • We use the mean from the whole subregion for that wave.
  • The "two fish rule" still applies.

After subregional substitution, if the mean weight is STILL missing, we give up and leave a missing weight estimate. At that point,

  • It is up to the user to determine whether to substitute, and
  • What substitution is most appropriate to use (a mean from the preceding and following waves, the whole year, same wave over years, whole Atlantic & Gulf coast, some complicated regression model, whatever).
  • We don't make those decisions because the information needs and sensitivity of the data vary among species.
The phenomenon of missing weights is more widespread with rarely caught species and with large fish (i.e. tunas). The existence and/or extent of missing weights for your query can be examined by requesting data at the cell level: (by year/wave/state/by mode/by area/by species (time series)).

2000 Update

The effort estimates (numbers of trips) for the Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey are calculated based on a random sample of residents of households in coastal counties. The average number of recreational saltwater fishing trips per household is calculated and this average is expanded by the number of households in the county. The number of households is based on annual projections made by the Survey of Buying Power (Bill Communications). Official Census Bureau counts of households for the 2000 Census have been recently released and where these numbers differed with the projections, the count of households has been updated to reflect the Census Bureau figure. These updates will result in some small changes to the effort, and hence also to the catch, estimates.

2005-2006 Hurricane Katrina Update

On June 7, 2006, the United States Census Bureau published special estimates to assess the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on population and demographic characteristics of Gulf Coast communities ( These estimates are not considered part of the Census Bureau's official estimate series. Rather, they were produced using specially designed methodologies to assess the impacts of hurricane events on population sizes of affected counties (for a complete description of the methodology used by the Census Bureau, please refer to
While not part of the official estimate series, these special estimates are the most accurate approximation of hurricane impacts on Gulf Coast populations. As such, they have been incorporated into the procedures used to estimate recreational fishing effort and catch, beginning with wave 5 (September/October), 2005 and continuing through 2006.


Participation estimates are available for three categories based on area of residence:

  • From January-April and November-December, coastal county residence means anglers from counties within 25 miles of the coast.
  • From May-October, coastal county residence means anglers from counties within 50 miles of the coast.
  • In North Carolina, the coastal zones are within 50 and 100 miles of the coast, because of the fishing patterns in that state.
  • Non-coastal counties are counties within the state but not in the defined coastal zone.
  • Out-of-State means people from other states or countries who came to the state and fished.

Summing across categories and geographic areas:

  • All participants are additive within a state.
  • Coastal and non-coastal county residents are also additive across states and sub-regions.
  • Out-of-state participants should NOT be added across states or regions.
  • An out-of-state participant could have fished in more than one state that is not his or her state of residence.
Addition of out-of-state participants across states may result in double counting of some individuals.

Currently, the recreational fishing statistics program conducted by the NMFS includes the Atlantic coast (ME-East FL), Gulf coast (LA-West FL), Puerto Rico and Hawaii. Data presented in the queries are those from only these surveys. Data from other NMFS and state surveys are not included in the query. Care is advised when comparing catch estimates across an extended time series because of differences in sampling coverage through the years.

In the South Atlantic and Gulf sub-regions (NC- LA) party boat catch data have not been collected since 1985, so estimates for these sub-regions only include charter boats in the for-hire sector. Prior to 1998, on the Pacific coast, ocean boat trips and salmon trips were not sampled during certain waves because they were surveyed by state natural resource agencies. West Pacific U.S. territories have not been included in the national survey program since 1981. Hawaii was not surveyed between 1981 and 2002. The U.S. Caribbean was not surveyed between 1981 and 2000. Alaska conducts an annual mail survey in place of the NMFS' program. Marine recreational fishing in Texas is monitored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and has not been surveyed by the NMFS' survey program since 1985.

Historically, only about five percent of the annual recreational catch on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts is taken during Wave 1 (Jan/Feb). Costs to sample these months are very high due to low fishing activity. Therefore, in Jan/Feb of 1981 the surveys were not conducted in any region. In 1982, Jan/Feb data collection resumed on the Pacific and Gulf coasts and also on the Atlantic coast of Florida. With a few exceptions the recreational statistics program has not collected data in Jan/Feb on the Atlantic coast north of Florida since 1980.

Time periods when the marine recreational statistics program has not been conducted: Nov/Dec (ME & NH) - 1987 to present; Mar/Apr (ME & NH) - 1986 to present; Jan/Feb (Northern CA & OR) - 1994; Jan/Feb (Southern CA & OR) - 1995 Nov/Dec (OR) - 1994; Nov/Dec (WA shore modes) - 2003; July - Dec (OR shore modes) - 2003; All Waves (CA - WA) - 1990 to 1993, 2004 to present; All Waves (WA) - 1993 to 1994.

The NMFS Beaufort Laboratory conducts the Southeast Region Headboat Survey (SRHS) to provide headboat (partyboat) catch and effort for the Southeast Region (NC-TX). Data are available from:

Southeast Fisheries Science Center
Beaufort Laboratory
101 Pivers Island Road
Beaufort, NC 28516-9722

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has conducted their own survey of marine recreational fisheries since 1974. Estimates for Texas are available from:

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department,
8400 Smith School Road,
Austin, Texas 78744

The Pacific states conduct surveys of salmon fishing, ocean-boat fishing, and California passenger fishing vessels. Estimates for these fisheries are available from:

Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission,
45 SE 82nd Drive, Suite 100,
Gladstone, OR 97027

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game conducts surveys of recreational fishing in that state.

For the Program Glossary click here.