Calls for better fish stock assessments gain momentum

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Good news for fishing boat dealers and millions of saltwater anglers in the Gulf States comes from NOAA Fisheries in an announcement that it will address concerns and make improvements to fishing data collection programs. recreational fishing.

This is something that boating and fishing interests have long demanded. Specifically, NOAA Fisheries and its Gulf Coast partners have taken an important step toward integrating state recreational catch estimates into the federal stock assessment and management process. At a recent meeting, the organizations agreed to pursue a two-track transition to full use of state data.

The first track will include a calibration that allows estimates from one survey to be expressed in the same units of another, which so far has not been the case. In other words, survey data from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida will be incorporated into regional stock assessments.

This new approach will ensure that state data is used in a way that is consistent with historical estimates produced by NOAA Fisheries Marine Recreation Information Program, a series of catch and fishing effort estimates that measure the number of trips made by saltwater anglers and the number of fish they catch. .

Clearly, the coordination and incorporation of multiple streams of recreational fishing data should provide more accurate assessments of fish stocks in the future, which recreational anglers believe has been lacking until now.

Track two involves examining sources of error that can cause critical differences between data collection programs. According to NOAA Fisheries, understanding these differences will help identify improvements to state and federal recreational fishing surveys. The objective is simple and straightforward: bring all the estimates closer together.

Specifically, short- and long-term fisheries research priorities will be informed by recommendations from a team of statistical consultants. It is also important to recognize that this will also meet the terms of a congressional directive to assess and improve the accuracy and precision of federal and state investigations of recreational fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

To facilitate the transition process, all participants have agreed that state agencies will store their raw recreational fishing data and calculate catch and effort estimates in a common database. The partners have all committed to jointly develop the associated data standards.

“Proper management of our marine resources is vitally important to fishers in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Dave Donaldson, executive director of the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. “We believe this collaborative approach of state, federal and fisheries management board staff, all working together to address concerns and make improvements to recreational fishing data collection programs, will result in highest possible quality data used in fisheries science and management.”

Conclusion: This collaborative effort has been a long time coming, but now that it is here, it will ultimately ensure the highest possible quality data on which to base every conservation and management decision regarding the valuable species of reef fish in the Gulf.

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