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Decades ago, Boston Harbor ‘was a sewer.’ Now, kids swim and fish in it

Eric Joseph, 15, of Dorchester carried a striped bass Wednesday as he arrived at Fan Pier for Save the Harbor/Save the Bay's annual youth fishing tournament. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

After spending an hour on a boat in the Boston Harbor Wednesday morning and a summer staffing a youth environmental education program, Eric Joseph reeled in the biggest catch of his fishing career.

Granted, that career hasn’t been particularly long. Eric, 15, of Dorchester, learned to fish at the beginning of the summer when he joined the team of teachers, college assistants, and 20 local teens who staff the nonprofit Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, an advocacy organization that hosts a youth environmental education program.

Eric’s fish, a striped bass that measured 30 inches, took first prize in the organization’s annual staff fishing tournament.

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Eric said learning to fish was a breeze, but reeling in the bass was a different story.

“It was a real struggle. I actually got a couple scratches on my hand, and if it keeps on moving, I’ll probably have more,” Eric said as the fish wriggled in his hands.

“See most of these blood stains?” he asked, indicating blood on the scales of the fish. “That’s not the fish’s.”

Eric Joseph’s fish, a striped bass that measured 30 inches, took first prize in the organization’s annual staff fishing tournament.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Basil Freddura, the captain of the Daze Off, the boat on which the winning fish was caught, said reeling in the striped bass was a team effort. He lent a hand to Eric, as did Imani Dorsey, 16, of Roxbury, another staff member at Save the Harbor/Save the Bay.

“It was the boat’s fish,” Freddura said.

Bruce Berman, a spokesman for Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, said the nonprofit works to provide children from more than 100 local camps and educational programs with the opportunities the newly cleaned Boston Harbor provides. “Thirty years ago, Boston Harbor was a sewer,” Berman said.

Now, the children who participate in the program can splash in the water, hunt for crabs, and learn to fish, he said.

On Wednesday, staff members who teach Boston’s youth about marine life and the environment got a day off to participate in the tournament.

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“They deserve a day out on the water,” Berman said. “It’s rained a lot this summer, and it’s been cold, and it’s been windy, and it’s been wet. They’ve been real troupers.”

The group will all benefit from Eric, Imani, and Freddura’s hard work, Berman said, when they grill the bass and serve it up to hungry staff.

Ray Chai, 21, of Brighton carried his fish off of the boat as he and others arrived at Fan Pier on Wednesday.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Alyssa Meyers can be reached at alyssa.meyers@globe.com.