Recreational Fisheries

Until the 1970's, most people thought commercial fisheries took the greater part of the total marine fishery catch in the waters of the United States. However, catches by the marine recreational fishery are a significant portion of the total landings of many marine species. In fact, most species of fish in estuarine and inshore areas, as well as many in open waters, are harvested jointly by recreational and commercial fishermen.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is required to collect statistics on marine recreational fishing.Data have been collected since the 1970s via the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survery (MRFSS). Catch, effort, and participation estimates have been produced since 1981. These statistics are fundamental for assessing the influence of recreational fishing on any stock of fish. The quantities taken, the fishing effort, and the seasonal and geographical distribution of the catch and effort are required for the development of rational management policies and plans. Continuous monitoring of catch, effort, and participation is needed to track trends, evaluate the impacts of management regulations, and project what impacts various management scenarios will have on a fishery.

Since 1994, NMFS has collected annual economic and human dimensions data from recreational anglers using the MRFSS sampling frame. Economic and human dimensions data is used to illustrate the impact of different management policies on fishermen and communities. When paired with catch and biomass data, this information forms the core components of most regulatory and allocation decisions. NMFS' recreational economics program assists in the decision-making process by providing managers with informative analyses of these data.

NEFSC social scientists work with other regions and with headquarters staff to seek new ways to enhance data collection efforts and provide new analyses that meet recreational management needs. The NMFS uses several surveys to gather information on:

  • the participation, fishing effort, and catch in marine recreational fishing
  • the demographic, social, and economic characteristics of the participants

The Marine Recreational Information Program
Many changes are in the process of occurring in the recreational sector. Replacing the Marine Recreational Statistics Survey, in place since the 1970s, is a new program that is currently being tested and will soon be implemented. The Marine Recreational Information Program, or MRIP, is the new way NOAA Fisheries is counting and reporting marine recreational catch and effort. It is a angler-driven initiative that will not only produce better estimates, but will do so through a process grounded in the principles of transparency, accountability and engagement. MRIP is designed to meet two critical needs:

  • Provide the detailed, timely, scientifically sound estimates that fisheries managers, stock assessors and marine scientists need to ensure the sustainability of ocean resources
  • Address head-on stakeholder concerns about the reliability and credibility of recreational fishing catch and effort estimates

View the 2011 MRIP Brochure

>> What will MRIP Do?

>> Improved system of surveys

>> The Coastal Household Telephone Survey (CHTS)

>> For-Hire Telephone Survey (FHS)

>> Access-Point Angler Intercept Survey

>> The Large Pelagics Survey (LPS)

What types of analyses can be produced from these surveys?

>> Economic Impacts

>> Economic Value

>> Assessment of Management Options

>> For-hire Cost and Earnings

>> Special Studies

More information on the recreational program and all of the survey instruments can be found on the NMFS Science & Technology website.
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(File Modified Apr. 01 2016)