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Fishermen come together to feed the unemployed

Tim Croft
tcroft@starfl.com

There’s no study of rocket science in making the statement that fishing has a long, illustrious history in Port St. Joe.

And it continues to this day: what is a fundraiser in Port St. Joe without some fresh mullet supplied by local fish houses?

Now, a group of commercial fishermen are taking that concept to another level, pledging a percentage of every mullet catch to those who have lost their jobs to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group is undertaking incorporation as Fishermen for Florida, Inc. with the stated mission of providing disaster relief to the county’s unemployed due to coronavirus.

“It is really the people’s natural resource,” said J. Pat Floyd, attorney and representative of the new organization.

The board includes the folks at St. Joe Shrimp Co., Mark Moore, Clint Moore, Eckley Sander and their staff and fishermen; and Harold, Eugene, Joey and Randy Raffield and the folks at Raffield Fisheries.

The board’s mission statement noted the loss of jobs in the county due to the pandemic as well as the recently “announced threat and limitation to the meat supply chain from the Midwest.”

The Fishermen for Florida, Inc. intend to step into that breach for the local community.

“We have decided to continue our historic practice of giving to our community, especially in times of need, by providing fresh mullet free to those (county) residents who are currently receiving unemployment,” the mission statement reads in part.

The process begins with the unemployed registering at St. Joe Shrimp’s store in Simmons Bayou (1937 State 30A).

Folks register by taking an active Florida driver’s license showing a Gulf County address and the paperwork demonstrating they are currently receiving unemployment.

A copy will be made of the documents and the name put on the receiving list; folks must make sure to provide a contact phone number as well as the number of people living in the household.

Gulf County fishermen have pledged 10 percent of each mullet catch to the cause.

“They are going with mullet because that is the local catch,” Floyd said.

Once mullet are caught by a fisherman, 10 percent of the catch by weight will be iced in a cooler and brought to St. Joe Shrimp.

“When they have the fish they will make it available for the program,” Floyd said.

Those on the list of unemployed will be contacted to come pick up their fish, uncleaned, and must do so post haste after being contacted.

The gift will be based on the allocation of fish for the number in the household until the fish run out and St. Joe Shrimp will pick up the list where it stopped with the next catch of mullet and so on.

“They are going to do it safe, with plastic gloves and with social distancing,” Floyd said.

And, Floyd said, recipients should bring a cooler and ice to keep the fish fresh until they return home.

According to the Fishermen for Florida mission statement, the program will continue until the fish run out or the fishermen decide to end the program.

“Thank you as always to our community,” the board of Fishermen for Florida, Inc. said in a joint statement. “We pray this will be a blessing to you and your families, who we also consider part of our families here in Gulf County.”