An Influx of Cash to Improve Fisheries Data Collection

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The boating industry worked long and hard to lobby Congress to pass the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act (Modern Fish Act) of 2018.

Our efforts are now paying off — it was announced that states will be receiving $3 million more to significantly improve the data collection on recreational fisheries.

The Modern Fish Act put into federal law the differences between recreational and commercial fishing — recognition that was long overdue. In addition, the bill mandated more appropriate management tools must be used by policymakers in overseeing federal recreational fisheries vital to the boating industry and its customers.

For example, it calls on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries to provide state support for gaining data in state-federal partnerships. It’s resulting in surveys done to more accurately identify the total recreational catch.

Data is collected in-person, by telephone and mail to measure the number of trips saltwater anglers take, and the number of fish caught. When combined with commercial catch data, biological research and direct fishery observations, the recreational catch data will help scientists and managers assess and maintain sustainable U.S. fish stocks.

Dubbed the Marine Recreational Information Program, it partners with Implementation Teams in each region. They set the highest priorities to be examined using the funding. This will also advance state specialized survey programs that allow recreational anglers to submit information through convenient electronic reporting using smartphones, tablets, computers and other technologies. Funding specifics include:

The Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program will administer $900,000 to improve the precision of landings and discard estimates, prioritizing species managed through annual catch limits.

The Pacific Coast Recreational Fisheries Information Network will administer $900,000 to restore sampling levels to increase the precision of estimates produced by recreational fishing surveys in Washington, Oregon, and California.

The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Information Network will administer $900,000 to restore sampling levels for the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, and LA Creel in Louisiana. An additional $300,000 will support the specialized state surveys that allow anglers to electronically report information about their reef fish fishing trips.

In another key move to more accurately collect data, approximately 3,000 charter and headboat vessels, most of which have never reported catch information, will now be required to do so.

Specifically, those holding federal for-hire fishing permits fishing in the South Atlantic region and the Gulf of Mexico will be required to enter the digital age. They will have to provide fishing trip level logbook information electronically.

Many captains reportedly welcome the chance to provide first-hand information to the process.

Digital logbooks seek to improve data collection on how the for-hire industry operates, and what it catches and harvests. This will give fisheries scientists and fisheries managers a better understanding of charter and headboat fishing and their impact on fish populations in the southeast U.S.

Collecting better data can lead to more informed fisheries management decisions, improved quota monitoring, better projections of fishing seasons and more accurate stock assessments — all needs the boating and fishing industries have long been calling for.

In the Atlantic and Gulf regions, digital reporting is slated to begin September 1 for fishermen with Atlantic federal charter/headboat permits for: dolphin, wahoo, snapper, grouper and coastal migratory pelagics. They will be required to submit electronic catch and effort reports weekly for each trip.

For the boating and fishing industry, the fact that recreational fishing is now a major player in the management and future of so many important fisheries clearly highlights the kind of success that can be enjoyed when all parties become engaged.  

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