A new survey has been approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to collect data from anglers in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Gulf Reef Fish Survey was created to gather information from recreational fisherman about which reef fish species they catch, according to Beverly Sauls, associate research scientist for FWC.
Species include: red snapper, vermilion snapper, black and red grouper, gag, gray triggerfish, banded rudderfish, almaco jack, greater amberjack and less amberjack.
Sauls said researchers have good information on the numbers of people who purchase fishing licenses and participate in saltwater recreational fishing across the state. But this information does not include how many people fish for each of the particular species targeted in the survey.
Researchers are looking to find trends in the number of people fishing from private boats, trips taken, and the number and size of the fish caught.
Private boats are the largest and most difficult division to collect data from, with about three million recreational fishing trips made by private boats in the Gulf of Mexico in the past year alone, according to the FWC website.
Mike Goldschlag, 31, a local fisherman who uses the Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee, said it is important to monitor fish, but disagrees with the survey’s focus. He would like to see the study examine inshore species of fish having difficulties, like sea trout and redfish.
“The bountiful scallop season is clouding the fact that for months even local guides were questioning what had happened to the sea trout who were gone for much of the spring season,” Goldschlag said.
The survey is funded by the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund as part of the project titled Enhanced Assessment for Recovery of Gulf of Mexico Fisheries.
If the funding for the program continues, researchers expect the survey to be extended by five years, Sauls said.
Seven to 10 percent of anglers will receive the survey each month through a questionnaire in the mail.
So far, researchers have received 25 percent participation in the first month of the mailing surveys.
For researchers, this is a good start. A successful rate for mail surveys is usually about 30 to 40 percent, according to Sauls.
“We still encourage as many people as possible to return the questionnaires for the best results,” Sauls said.
Results from the program are not expected until after the first year of the survey, according to Sauls.
Timothy Meng, 52, an entrepreneur and local fisherman, said he received an email to participate, but that it seemed voluntary.
Meng, who took his 22-foot Andros Bonefish out fishing a couple weeks back, thinks it is beneficial for reputable sources to collect populations and quotas. He cautions that self-reported data may not be the best science.