■ BY MICHELLE KERR, FWC
Faster access to data. Improved fisheries estimates. More-informed decision-making. We want to thank you for making the Gulf Reef Fish Survey a success. Your participation has led the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), for the first time ever, to be able to manage the harvest of recreational red snapper in both state and federal waters in the Gulf. Participants in the survey are helping improve fisheries management in Florida.
Since April 2015, recreational anglers who fish from private boats on the Gulf coast of Florida have been asked to sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. Signing up is required to legally harvest red and vermilion snappers; gag, black and red groupers; gray triggerfish; and amberjack species.
The purpose of the Gulf Reef Fish Survey is to provide timely and precise data to state and federal agencies that are responsible for managing reef fish and making decisions that impact recreational anglers in Florida. By signing up for the survey, anglers are eligible to receive a questionnaire in the mail about recent fishing activity. Each month, angler responses from the mail survey are used to estimate the numbers of recreational trips taken on the west coast of Florida to fish for Gulf reef fish species.
By working collaboratively with NOAA Fisheries, the Gulf Reef Fish Survey produces data that are complementary with the existing Marine Recreational Information Program external website. When information collected from the two surveys is used together, estimates of landings are more precise, and this allows fishery managers to have greater confidence in our data. Later this year, the FWC will request that NOAA Fisheries certify the Gulf Reef Fish Survey for use in regional stock assessments and fisheries management.
The Gulf Reef Fish Survey is the primary data collection method for private recreational anglers to help improve recreational data collection for use in fisheries stock assessments and fisheries regulations. For red snapper, anglers can also use a smartphone/tablet app called iAngler Gulf Red Snapper External Website to voluntarily log red snapper fishing trip data. Anglers who report through the app are still asked to participate in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey if they receive a questionnaire in the mail or are interviewed by an FWC biologist at the dock. Participation in the survey, MRIP and the iAngler app is important for fisheries management.
If you receive one of the Gulf Reef Fish surveys in the mail, we ask that you fill out the questionnaire and return it to the marked address. Return the questionnaire even if you did not fish during the month of the survey. If an FWC biologist greets you at a boat ramp or marina, the interview takes just a few minutes of your time. By participating in an interview for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey, you are making an important contribution to help conserve Florida’s recreational fisheries.
Want to know more about the Gulf Reef Fish Survey? Visit MyFWC.com/Research, click on “Saltwater,” then “Commercial and Recreational Fisheries” and “Gulf Reef Fish Survey.” You can also learn more at MyFWC.com/Snappers by clicking on “Gulf Reef Fish Survey.”
Michelle Kerr is a media representative for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission