Science Behind the Survey
Do you have questions about the Gulf Reef Fish Survey? Find answers here.
How do I sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey?
You can sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey online.
Why do we need this data collection program for Gulf Reef Fish?
Reef fish include some of the most highly prized, economically important species in the Gulf of Mexico, such as red snapper and gag grouper. Recreational fishing in the state of Florida is an important social and economic driver for coastal communities and helps fuel the state’s tourism-based economy. Last year, anglers in Florida took more than 3 million recreational fishing trips from private boats in the Gulf of Mexico. Anglers who fish from private boats represent the largest and most difficult segment of the recreational fishery to collect vital information on. More accurate data on reef fish will allow managers to maximize recreational fishing opportunities while continuing to sustain the resource.
How are the data collected?
Anglers with the Gulf Reef Fish Survey designation may be randomly selected to receive a survey questionnaire in the mail. The mail survey collects information on the numbers of recreational fishing trips taken over the past month. This information is used to estimate the total number of recreational fishing trips for reef fish that take place from the west coast of Florida. In addition, FWC biologists conduct in-person interviews at randomly selected sites, such as boat ramps and marinas, where recreational anglers may be intercepted. The angler interviews collect information on the numbers and types of fish caught during recreational trips. This trip-level catch information is combined with data from the mail survey to estimate the total numbers of reef fish species harvested and released by recreational anglers.
Why is signing up for the survey mandatory?
The requirement to sign up for the survey helps FWC identify anglers who fish recreationally for reef fish so they can be contacted directly for the purpose of improved data collection.
What if I did not fish for reef fish, should I still fill out the survey?
Information on how many anglers did not fish for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico during a given month is also very important, so we want to hear back from everyone. If we do not hear from you after sending the questionnaire, you will receive a courtesy reminder after one week and a new copy of the questionnaire after two weeks.
What is the penalty if I do not fill out the questionnaire?
There is no penalty if you do not fill out the questionnaire. However, since we rely on voluntary participation to collect vital information on recreational fisheries, it is important that we hear back from as many people who receive the questionnaire as possible.
Will this survey replace the federally-managed survey currently conducted in Florida?
No. The Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) is the primary source of recreational fishing data used to monitor all recreationally caught fish in Florida. FWC uses this information to assess important state-managed fisheries, including spotted sea trout, red drum, common snook and other nearshore species. The Gulf Reef Fish Survey is designed to complement MRIP by targeting anglers who fish for particular species and collecting more detailed information that will allow us to better manage that resource.
Why aren’t anglers who fish from charter boats and large party boats or commercial fishermen required to do this?
Charter boat captains participate in a weekly telephone survey and provide information on their vessels’ recreational fishing activities whenever they are selected. Charter vessel operators with certain federal permits may also be required to report data to NOAA Fisheries for every fishing trip. Operators of large party boats (also called headboats) are also required to submit data to NOAA Fisheries for every fishing trip. All commercial landings of reef fish are also reported to state and federal resource management agencies during the point of sale.
If I have filled out a questionnaire that I received in the mail or by email, do I still need to talk to an FWC biologist if they approach me at the dock?
We encourage everyone to participate in a dockside interview, even if you have also received a questionnaire about your fishing activity and returned it to FWC. The purpose of the dockside interview is to collect specific information on where you fished that day (such as how far you travelled offshore or how deep you fished) that cannot be collected in a mail questionnaire. The questionnaire also does not collect information on the numbers and species of fish caught during recreational fishing, and it is important that we collect this information on the day of your fishing trip so we can see your catch to collect information on the size and weight of fish
Mail Survey FAQs:
What am I signing up for when I sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey?
Signing up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey makes you eligible to be contacted by FWC for the purpose of collecting information about your fishing activity. Between 5-10 percent of all anglers signed up as a Gulf reef fish angler will be selected each month to receive a questionnaire in the mail. For your convenience, a self-addressed postage-paid envelope will be included in the mail packet you receive. The questionnaire will be mailed to your residence and should only take a few minutes to fill out.
Gulf Reef Fish Anglers will not be asked to report every fishing trip they make, but you may be randomly selected throughout the year and asked to fill out a questionnaire about your fishing activity for the most recent month. Questions will be general in nature and only pertain to where and how often you fish during a given month.
Providing this data to FWC is voluntary. We are asking for your help to provide the best data possible to manage this important resource.