Sport fishermen who were affected by the 2012 fisheries disaster have been slow to respond to a call for applications for aid, but the few who have applied may get a larger share of the $4.6 million available, because of the lack in response.
The deadline to apply for the sportfishing-related disaster funding is Friday and as few as 100 of the 3,200 applications mailed out have been returned — though that number may have increased.
The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, which is administering the funds, mailed the applications in early March and program spokeswoman Susan Anderson said they’d had about a 50 percent response. She would not clarify an exact number of applications received and forwarded questions to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, where Deputy Commissioner Kevin Brooks who said that as few as 100 applications had been received as of May 22.
Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission Executive Director Randy Fisher did not return calls for clarification on the number of applicants as of press time on Wednesday.
“Hopefully they will see a big pulse during the final week,” Brooks wrote in an email.
In previous interviews, fund administrators and staff from the Kenai River Sportfishing Association — which has hosted several informational sessions for applicants — have said that the funds would divided equally among those who qualified for aid.
Anderson told the Alaska Journal of Commerce that the payments would be made in the first week of July at the earliest and that each recipient would receive an equal percentage of the $4.6 million, according to a March 25 article.
According to the fisheries aid application, the funds will be administered via a shares program and each fishermen or fishing-related business could qualify for a certain number of shares.
Gease said each share was capped at a value of $6,500.
If a 50 percent response equates to half of the applications being returned, or 1,600 of them, an equal payment per share would be just over $2,900.
“Most likely, if there’s not a lot of applicants, it’s going to be a fairly healthy share,” he said.
Gease said many of the applications that were sent out prequalified the recipient for one or two shares based on guide logbook data archived by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
“They should just have to sign it, put their address or the guide address business on it, fill out the W-9 for each business and send it back in,” Gease said.
Any money remaining after each share has been paid to the cap should roll into research for Cook Inlet projects, he said.
The money was allocated toward sportfishermen in the Cook Inlet after Congress appropriated $20.8 million for federal fisheries disasters on the Yukon and Kuskokwim River king salmon runs and in the Upper Cook Inlet salmon fisheries; $7.8 million was distributed to commercial salmon fishermen in 2014.
At the time National Marine Fisheries Service Spokeswoman Julie Speegle said Cook Inlet commercial fishermen received a $2,000 fixed payment, plus a percentage based on their landings history from 2007-2011, according to the March 25 article.
Another $1.1 million has been set aside for research in the Cook Inlet and $700,000 will go toward salmon buyers.
While the Pacific States Marine Fisheries commission pre-screened applicants based on guide logbook data and other factors, applications are still available for those who think they qualify.
Applications can be obtained by calling the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission at 503-595-3100.
Reach Rashah McChesney at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens.