Saltwater Marine Fishing Regulations Rhode Island Saltwater Fishing

The APAIS Program Gets an Upgrade!

By John Lake, Supervising Marine Biologist, Mike Bucko, Fisheries Technician,
Nathan Andrews, Fisheries Specialist, RI DEM Division of Marine Fisheries

Rhode Island assumed the role of coordinating the Access-Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS) back in 2016. Since then, we have sought to improve the quality of our data by increasing productivity, efficiency, providing effective outreach, and refining our sampling frame. In simpler terms, RI APAIS is capitalizing on Rhode Island’s many great fishing locations to collect the best data possible and interact with more anglers. Rhode Island staff have embraced their new role in the collection of recreational data and have met the challenge for the past 3 years. Actively engaging in the data collection process has allowed opportunities to expand the program through the hiring of additional staff, sampling during time periods that were previously not sampled, and developing new technologies.

For the past three years, RI Marine Fisheries has hired two or three additional field staff to collect more interviews. These additional staff make it possible for RI APAIS to record more interviews and improve our data, while at the same time reducing the percent standard error (PSE) around our catch estimates. The additional staff also provide flexibility to sample during times of the year which were previously unsampled. Notably, riding along and observing headboat trips between November and February. These staff members are also engaged in developing new technologies as tools to improve the programs. Additionally, these tools allow us to train staff to be better at collecting data, monitor fishing activity to direct sampling effort effectively, and improve data collection efficiency. The results have been very positive, Figure 1 displays our improvements in obtaining more angler intercepts.

Another exciting development is that, we are trading in our paper and pencils for new electronic tablets. This year, the APAIS program is going digital with the Dockside Reporter! Instead of the big metal clipboards and papers which anglers have grown accustomed to seeing at the end of their fishing trip, Fisheries Technicians will be surveying across Rhode Island’s shores with new electronic tablets equipped with new Dockside Interceptor App (DIA). RI APAIS staff have been working closely with staff from the Atlantic Coast Cooperative Statistics Program (ACCSP), Mid Atlantic and South Atlantic Fishing Councils, NOAA Fisheries, and Harbor Light Software to develop the logic and flow of a digital version of the fishing survey. This year, 2019, is the first year for its field implementation and cumulates nearly three years of hard work.

Digital technology represents a whole suite of potential improvements to the recreational data collection process, notably in data quality and data collection efficiency. The new tablet-based system uses logic to prevent errors, thus improving both the quality and timeliness of the data by reducing the number of edits required for the data to be used for estimating catch rates. This new efficiency is particularly beneficial to the ACCSP who can now accept data via a digital upload, in lieu of paper forms. Data is submitted immediately after an assignment and immediately available for review. This “instant access” to the data is a vast improvement over the weeks-long process for paper forms to be scanned and uploaded to the MRIP database. Faster accesses to the data will allow for faster data analysis and an overall improved more efficient management process.

This digital transition is not just taking place in Rhode Island. From Maine to Florida, all states are going digital as part of a NOAA Fisheries Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) objective. The transition to a digitally based data collection system is viewed as a “gamechanger” for recreational fisheries management and will continually be improved to address other aspects of the program. RI staff are continuing to make improvements to the Dockside Reporter and are key players in the rollout of the new system. We are not done yet! Currently, staff are developing an enhancement to the Dockside Reporter which will include a voice-to-text software system. The goal here will be to improve the speed and accuracy of collecting biological data at-sea on headboats. The future looks bright for RI Marine Fisheries APAIS Program. As always, if you see one of our Fisheries Technicians out in the field, we encourage you to take a minute out of your day to answer a few quick questions and measure your catch for that day. Don’t forget to set the hook and set an example for other anglers by participating! Remember: Better Data, Better Fishing – You make it Possible.

Figure 1: Number of Angler intercepts in Rhode Island per year between 2016 and 2018