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Fishes and loaves

In mid–May, the Massachusetts Environmental Police thought something was “fishy” near the town of Fairhaven. They ended up seizing 250 pounds of fresh scup (porgy) fish from a suspected illegal charter boat.

According to news reports, charter trips are suspended due to COVID–19 and the ship’s captain also lacked a charter boat permit. The fish were seized, but what to do with them?

It wasn’t long before authorities were on the phone with Major Michael Jung of The Salvation Army in New Bedford, Mass., who said the fish fed 30–35 families.

“They have to do something with the fish,” Jung said of the environmental police. “They can’t just throw them back in the water, so they bring all the illegally caught fish to The Salvation Army in New Bedford and then we distribute those fish.”

Jung said illegally caught fish are seized “all year long” and donated to The Salvation Army, but this incident was big news because of COVID–19.

“There’s a lot of illegal fishing that goes on in this area and folks will try to catch more fish than they are allowed,” Jung said. “They have a weight limit that they can catch, and they will sometimes go over that.

“The police will sometimes call and say, ‘Do you want some fish?’ It could be any time of the day. I could be home sleeping. My cell phone is on file with them and they could call me any time of day.”

When they called this time, Jung jumped at the opportunity.

“We were able to give four fish to each family in clear plastic bags and we put them with our food boxes,” Jung said.

The boxes also included bread, which led Anne Rich, the assistant music director for the Massachusetts Division, to equate it to the biblical account of the fishes and loaves in Matthew 14:13-14. She has been helping out in New Bedford.

Jung said the corps has been distributing 400 food boxes and 450 meals a week in New Bedford since COVID–19 began.

by Robert Mitchell

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