August 21, 2023

CSF Seizes Opportunity for State Forward Fisheries Management at Gulf Council Meeting

Article Contact: Chris Horton,

Why it matters: A recent discovery by the National Marine Fisheries Service that the current Marine Recreational Information Program is overestimating angler harvest, one of the key components needed for stock assessments and setting annual harvest quotas, creates significant challenges for fisheries managers and could hamper recreational angler access in the years ahead. While it is problematic on the surface, is there a silver lining? The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) thinks so, and our comments to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council point out that where there is a problem, there is also opportunity.


  • Fishery-dependent data, or how many fish are caught each year, plays a central role in federal fisheries management. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently discovered that their current estimates for recreational angler harvest data may be off by as much as 40%.
  • This discovery will be problematic for fisheries managers, and possibly commercial and angler access to federally managed fisheries, for years to come while the discrepancy is resolved.
  • At the first regional fishery management council meeting following the NMFS announcement, CSF wasted no time in calling for future data collection efforts to be driven by the more efficient state natural resource agencies.

Last week, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) received a presentation from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Office of Science and Technology (OST) on their discovery of a problem with the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) and how it has been overestimating angler harvest by as much as 40%. Since federal fisheries management relies heavily on fishery-dependent data, the new discovery could have far-reaching implications for management and access to our recreational fisheries. Confusion on how to handle this information moving forward permeated throughout discussions at last week’s meeting.

However, due to problems with red snapper management that began over a decade ago, the five Gulf states each have their own highly successful state recreational data collection programs. While a few focus primarily on red snapper data that supplements or replaces MRIP’s estimates, these five states are well positioned to make changes to their existing programs to replace MRIP for all important reef fish species. CSF strongly urged the states, NMFS, and the Council to take that path in our comments during the meeting.

“The fact that we are looking at the third major revision to the Marine Recreational Information Program in a little over a decade is not only concerning, but also a likely indication that it may never be suitable for managing some species and especially those that require timely and accurate information for in-season management,” the letter states. “While it is unfortunate that the current FES surveys are not providing reliable estimates of angler catch and landings, this discovery presents an opportunity to take a step back, re-evaluate data needs, and identify the best path forward for obtaining the necessary information. We strongly believe that pathway clearly rests with the states, and we urge the Council to support the expansion of state data collection programs to replace MRIP and provide more consistent, reliable information.”

After discussion between the states, NMFS, and Council members near the end of the nearly week-long meeting, it seems they will in fact embrace the opportunity for the states to assume the lead in data collection. CSF looks forward to expeditiously working with the agencies on the transition to state programs and obtaining more reliable information for recreational fisheries management moving forward.



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