The National Marine Fisheries Service social sciences branch is launching a voluntary survey of fishermen from Maine to North Carolina to collect information about their calendar year 2022 commercial fishing expenses.

Survey letters will start going out in March to active, federally-permitted commercial fishing vessel owners in the NMFS Greater Atlantic region, which extends from Maine to North Carolina. It’s the first such survey since 2016.

The confidential survey is the only way the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration can collect such information, according to a recent announcement by NMFS. Agency officials say the results will be used to “develop economic analyses that inform commercial fishing regulation and policies to better meet the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and National Standard 8,” and to “better understand the effects of regulations on commercial fishing businesses and communities.”

Survey results will also help to track trends in business costs over time; evaluate the economic performance of fishing fleets; and better understand profitability of fishing fleets.”

The findings will also be used to expand NMFS’s new cost survey data visualization tool, which vessel owners can use for business planning.

To update the survey, researchers redesigned the survey to better align with how vessel owners run their businesses by generating gear-based surveys; worked with industry members to reframe survey questions and provide relatable examples; and decreased and simplified survey questions.

The survey has added an option for participants to take the survey through a virtual or phone interview, and increased the number of outreach presentations to raise awareness about the survey.

The survey is going to owners of pot and trap, trawl, gillnet, handgear, shellfish dredge, longline and seine vessels. Individual who owns multiple vessels are asked to complete a single survey for only one of their vessels.

Vessel owners have an option to take the survey online – a link to the survey will be included in emails and letters from NMFS. A hard copy survey packet will be sent to those who choose not to take the online survey. The survey packet will contain the survey, instruction sheet, and a prepaid return envelope. 

Mail-in and online surveys must be received by 11:59 p.m. July 31.

Researchers are looking for costs of vessels, at-sea operation, business overhead, and crew expenses. They also collecting information on quota leasing costs and earnings, and the value of the vessel and vessel permits. Specific expenses can include:

New/upgraded fishing gear

New/upgraded safety equipment




Vessel insurance premiums


Mooring fees

Workshop or storage

Association fees

Business vehicle use

Leasing quota and days at sea (if applicable)

“Your participation and individual responses to this survey are confidential,” according to the NMFS announcement. “All data appearing on our data visualization tool website and in reports will be presented in a manner that protects confidentiality.” 

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