Snail Mail Beats Telephones in Home Survey

DALLAS, Sept. 1 (UPI) — A letter with a stamp — old fashioned “snail mail” — may help officials struggling to stop overfishing of U.S. coastal waters, researchers say.

Since the 1970s the National Marine Fisheries Service has relied heavily on a home telephone survey of coastal households for information about fishing activity.

Researchers at Southern Methodist University say a pilot study in North Carolina has found a new way to calculate recreational fishing activity in the ocean — and it’s proven promising as a method to replace calling people on the phone, a university release said Wednesday.

The “new” method is in fact an old one: sending out questionnaires in a letter.

The researchers say they chose North Carolina because the state has had a saltwater recreational fishing registry for some time.

The study found that the new questionnaire mailed to selected households via the U.S. Postal Service netted a higher response rate and more complete data than the previous phone surveys, said Lynne Stokes, a professor in the Department of Statistical Science at SMU.

The mail survey asked recreational anglers the same question as the phone survey — how often they had recently gone fishing off the coast.

“Phone responses are declining at an alarming rate,” Stokes said, partly due to the jump in households that only have cellphones. “People are just less cooperative with phone surveys.”

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