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MRIP: The Science Behind Making Anglers’ Catch Count

 
Fishing rods and reels. According to a 2006 NOAA survey, recreational saltwater anglers collectively spent $18 billion on equipment like rods, reels, and boats. These purchases rippled through the economy contributing $59 billion in benefit to the U.S. economy and supporting 384,000 American jobs.

Changing the Way We Count and Report Fish

Many improvements have been launched. These include: 

  • The National Saltwater Angler Registry. This national “phone book” of fishermen will ultimately help to provide a more accurate picture of the size and impact including the economic impact of the nation’s saltwater recreational fishing community.
  • A new way to estimate fishing activity that corrects assumptions we had made in the past about some aspects of fishing activity.
  • Dozens of pilot projects—many of them proposed by or working in direct partnership with recreational anglers themselves to examine a wide range of issues that include new methods for how we collect and report out estimates, improving the way we measure charter boat and highly migratory species fishing activity; gaining a better understanding of what happens to discards; and looking at opportunities to use the Internet and mobile technologies to gather more information from anglers.

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April 2, 2012

We may never know exactly just how many fish anglers catch in a given year, but we can get a pretty good estimate. By gathering data such as how often anglers catch fish, what species and size of fish, and what happens to each fish after it is caught, we can provide the most accurate, up-to-date information to fishery managers and decision makers. They use this catch data to make determinations about fishing regulations and the health of the fish populations.

In 2006, NOAA Fisheries began a major overhaul of the way we make these estimates. The result is the Marine Recreational Information Program, or MRIP, which is helping us do a better job of counting anglers’ catch and providing new ways to ensure that their catch counts.

The program’s founding goal was to evaluate everything we knew or thought we knew about the best way to get the most accurate information about anglers’ catch. Because catch data varies depending on the stocks' geographic region and time of year, we also wanted to verify what the most important aspects of the catch data were to those using the data—fisheries managers, scientists, coastal communities, fishing clubs, anglers, and everyday ocean goers. One of MRIP's ongoing objectives is to provide data in a form and on a schedule that meets the most pressing needs of those people that rely on the data.

Now, the estimates are more accurate because they take into consideration factors like possible differences in catch rates at high-activity and low-activity fishing sites, or the amount of fishing occurring at different parts of the day. In statistics, variables like these are called potential biases and can skew the actual numbers if they’re not fully considered.

Implementing these elements builds the scientific and statistical foundation necessary to make other significant improvements that are also part of MRIP like enhanced angler surveys, more frequent reporting, and more precise estimates to meet the needs of fishermen, stock assessors, managers, and others.

Today, MRIP is fundamentally changing the way we count and report what saltwater recreational fishermen catch and how many trips they take. Based on recommendations made by the nation’s leading scientists working on behalf of the National Research Council, as part of MRIP, NOAA has launched many improvements, including the National Saltwater Angler registry, a new way to estimate fishing activity, and dozens of pilot projects.

Getting accurate estimates of angler catch is key for fishermen, managers, and scientists. Armed with the most up-to-date information, we can make the most informed decisions about the health of our oceans and the future of sustainable recreational fishing.

Find out more about how we're counting catch and visit  www.CountMyFish.noaa.gov. Click the image below to view videos about the counting process and learn more about the Marine Recreational Information Program.