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Recreational Fisheries Landings

Learn how recreational fishing landings and effort are estimated in the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) and how to access recreational fishing data.

FWC Biologist measuring fish

The Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), formerly known as the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistical Survey (MRFSS), was developed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to monitor recreational fisheries. The MRIP is designed to collect a variety of data:

  • Target species
  • By species, the number of fish harvested and released
  • Lengths and weights of harvested fish
  • Anglers' resident state and county
  • Annual and recent angler fishing effort
  • Time and general area fished
  • Fishing effort per household

These data are used to estimate catch, harvest, and fishing effort in participating states.

chart showing number of recreational trips by mode of fishing in Florida

Florida's recreational fishery is among the largest in the country and is an important component of the state's tourism economy. Close to half the estimated recreational fishing trips in Florida are made by visitors to the state. The MRIP estimates that recreational anglers took more than 42 million saltwater fishing trips statewide in Florida during 2018.

FWC Biologist holding red snapper

Why Collect Recreational Data?
Commercial seafood landings are reported to the state of Florida during the point of sale; however, there is no mechanism for the millions of recreational anglers targeting saltwater fish in Florida to report their harvest. The MRIP samples the recreational fishing public to estimate their contribution to the total harvest of fisheries resources. Reported commercial landings and estimates of recreational fishing effort, catch, and harvest are used to monitor the sustainability of fisheries and the effectiveness of conservation measures. The MRIP has been conducted for more than 20 years; this long-term data set allows fishery managers to track trends.

Man holding giant fish

The Survey Design
The MRIP, a federal survey administered by NMFS, is conducted in coastal states around the country. The survey has two complementary components. The field intercept component collects catch and harvest data directly from anglers during personal interviews. The telephone survey component collects information about fishing trips from anglers, including numbers of anglers in each household contacted and how often they go fishing. Combined, the two portions of the survey are used to estimate total catch, harvest, and effort in the recreational fishery. This survey has existed in Florida since 1979 and the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) began conducting field components of the survey in the state in 1997.

On average, field samplers interview 24,000 anglers in Florida annually. Field intercepts are conducted at ramps, marinas, docks, piers, beaches, and other fishing access points. During an intercept, a trained biologist interviews the angler and inspects the available catch. Fish are weighed, measured, and identified to species. Three fishing mode categories are targeted during field intercept assignments: shore, charter and party boats (for-hire boats), and private or rental boats. Sites with these fishing modes present are randomly assigned each month for interview collection assignments. The frequency of site selection is based on the relative fishing activity at each site.

Chart showing number of interviews by mode and region

Separate estimates of catch, harvest, and number of fishing trips are generated for each mode of fishing, and those estimates are added together to get total catch, harvest, and number of fishing trips for all modes of recreational fishing. Because fish in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico are often managed as separate stocks, the survey in Florida is split into separate east coast and west coast regions. Survey methods are the same in both regions, and separate estimates of effort, catch, and harvest are generated. Statewide estimates are obtained by combining estimates from both regions.

FWRI designed and conducts other surveys that are complementary to MRIP. These surveys include the Gulf Reef Fish Survey; our East Coast Red Snapper sampling program; and a biological sampling program designed to collect representative age, length and genetic data.

How the MRIP Data Are Used
In federal and state stock assessments, MRIP data and commercial harvest data are used to evaluate the sustainability of recreational and commercial fisheries and the effectiveness of regulations.

Many organizations use data collected by the MRIP:

  • State and federal management agencies
  • Federal management councils
  • Interstate marine fisheries commissions
  • Non-governmental organizations
  • Public
Chart showing recreational landings

Data on the extent and magnitude of recreational fishing are also important for consideration of economic impacts of fishing regulations and fair distribution of harvest and harvest restrictions. The figure to the right shows recreational and commercial landings for some popular finfish species in Florida during 2018. Recreational landings are depicted by the light blue bars and commercial landings are depicted by the red bars.

How Can I Learn More?
The National Marine Fisheries Service maintains a Web site that gives a full description of the MRIP, how it is conducted, and how the data are used. You can also query the data and download Florida's estimated recreational catches and fishing effort information.

Learn more about MRIP and query the database.

Estimates generated from the MRIP are available at the National Marine Fisheries Service Web site to anyone with Internet access. The database may be queried for regional estimates of landings, total catch, fishing effort, and size distributions of harvested fish from 1981 to present.