MRIP – Getting there!

Marine Recreational Information Program collects information about recreational catch and participation

Marine Recreational Information Program collects information about recreational catch and participation

Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) provides data for fisheries management

Ok, you say. What the heck is MRIP. It stands for Marine Recreational Information Program and it is the process whereby NOAA Fisheries collects all the information about recreational catch and participation. MRIP is one of those fisheries management acronyms of which there are too many. What comes out of MRIP forms the basis for managing recreational fisheries. So it is important, damn important. Is it the best? Well, it is the best that we currently have, and a great deal of energy is being expended to make it even better.

MRIP is the new version of MRFSS, another acronym that stands for Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey. MRFSS was found to be flawed by the National Academy of Sciences and since then a dedicated staff has been working to correct the problems that were pointed out. The improvements have not been a speedy process, but little that is done by our government ever is. But it has been a thorough and relentless effort to improve the data flow into the system. Part of the data stream comes from the salt water license requirement, something that I supported way back when and still support today. No, I am not a tax and spend kinda guy. I tend to lean toward the fiscally conservative side, but think that well-run user fee programs that have benefits being returned to the users are good. I know that drives the Tea Partiers nuts, but that’s just the way it is.

I do think that some of the data collection projects make a lot of sense. They are moving outside the old box of intercept survey data toward angler-participation driven data. I have supported cooperative research in the commercial fisheries and think that the same concept will work in the recreational fisheries. These programs are not easy to develop, but they should generate a better data stream in the long run.

One of the projects is looking at a way to identify fish that are released by the recreational fishery. The project calls released fish recreational discards. That is a term that makes me cringe. We’ll have to see what can be done about that, but I digress. This project is using free disposable cameras handed out at launch ramps for anglers to use when releasing fish. The photos will be used for identification and form the basis for statistical projections of release composition.

Another program is developing internet-based angler logs as a source of fishery dependent data.  We know how prevalent smart phones are today and using their extensive capability is just plain smart. This project will focus on using an application called iAngler, but there are others out there and expanding this should be relatively easy. Could the day that there is almost real-time data available for the recreational fishing sector be getting closer. I hope so.

Another project is testing the use of video cameras to establish a recreational fishing boat count or essentially fishing activity in a port that has historically been un-surveyed. This will assess if the video combined with traditional shore-side intercept surveys can be used to estimate catch and effort.

These are all interesting efforts to try to improve the data stream that is used to estimate the recreational fishing effort, catch, and also composition of released fish. During 2013, there will be eight other projects around the country to also improve recreational data. A lot of people think that the government should leave anglers alone and I tend to agree with the sentiment. However, with fish, we are dealing with a public trust resource and the public has a right to know what is being caught and killed. Fishery managers need this information to make the best decisions on how these fish should be managed, so that we have a few left for the future.

STRANGE CATCH- This past week an angler riding his bike along the shore of the Cape Cod Canal saw a bunch of fishing activity on the bank of the Canal. He pedaled home and grabbed a rod. Upon returning he saw what it was all about. The sickle-like tail fin of what he though was a white marlin clipped along in the current. He cast in the fishes direction and hooked up. Yup, it was a white marlin all right! He fought it to the bank and along with other anglers tried to revive the fish for a successful release. Unfortunately, they could not revive the fish. That would be an unusual catch on Cape Cod’s outer beaches, but in the Canal. Wow!

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"Rip" Cunningham, who owned, published and edited Salt Water Sportsman for 32 years, is also an accomplished writer and photographer. Cunningham has received several awards from the Outdoor Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in such magazines as Field and Stream, Rod and Reel, Gray's Sporting Journal, Australian Boating and the Boston Globe Magazine. Among his many accomplishments, Rip was recognized as the Conservationist of the Year from both the International Game Fish Association, the Coastal Conservation Association of Massachusetts, The Billfish Foundation and Federation of Fly Fishers. "I've earned a living from fishing, and I believe strongly that people with an interest in a given area should give something back,” he says. “It's rewarding every single day." Cunningham received his MBA from Babson College in Wellesley, MA and his BA from Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. He has two grown children and four grand children and lives with his wife and hunting dogs in Dover, MA and Yarmouth, ME. When he's not fishing or working through the items on his wife's "honey-do" list, Cunningham does some hunting and skiing.

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