The NMFS Southeast Region Headboat Survey: History, Methodology, and Data Integrity

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The Southeast Region Head boat Survey (SRHS) is administered by the Beaufort Laboratory of the NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center. The SRHS samples recreational headboats, wherein fishermen pay by the “head” and boats typically carry more than 6 passengers. The survey has operated along the southeast U.S. Atlantic since 1972 and in the Gulf of Mexico since 1986. It is the longest continuous time series of recreational fisheries data from federal waters along the southeast coast. The SRHS data consist of trip-level logbook records submitted by captains and biological samples collected dockside by professional port agents. Our study, focused on the SRHS in southeast U.S. Atlantic, was initiated a) to document the history, protocols, and methodological changes to the SRHS, and b) to estimate the prevalence of misreporting in the survey. We recommend that our results be used to guide the filtering of logbook records containing apparently erroneous information. However, more generally, our results indicate that the SRHS data are robust. We expect the survey will continue to support stock assessments, management advice, and other studies of economically important fish species.

E. E. Fitzpatrick, E. H. Williams, K. W. Shertzer, K. I. Siegfried, J. K. Craig, R. T. Cheshire, G. T. Kellison, K. E. Fitzpatrick and K. Brennan