Fishermen are among the most economically vulnerable of the world’s population. And yet the leadership that ICA’s fisheries sectoral organisation – ICFO (International Co-operative Fisheries Organisation) — is providing is among the most inspiring and impressive of our sectoral activities.
Last year, ICFO adopted its Seoul Declaration, to bring awareness to the needs of fisheries co-operatives and to the crisis facing the sustainability of fishing. Shortly after, it established 16 June as World Fisheries Co-operative Day, and this month representatives from fisheries co-operatives in various countries returned to Seoul to celebrate the first such day.
ICFO would not be able to provide the leadership it does today were it not for the tremendous support of KNFC, the Korean National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives. Mr. Lee Jong-koo from KNFC assumed chairmanship of ICFO in 2009, following over two decades of leadership by Japanese fisheries cooperatives (Zengyoren).
KNFC has developed one of the most remarkable handbooks I’ve seen on how to develop a co-operative sector, called “The Korean Fisheries Cooperatives’ Business Knowledge Sharing Program.” Step-by-step it lays out the programs necessary to create a comprehensive support system for fisheries co-operatives, from establishing exchange programs between cities and fishing villages; to providing mutual credit, insurance, and oil; and to marketing and consignment.
One of the most impressive support services KNFC offers to its members is its Fisheries Telecommunication Service, which operates sixteen telecommunications stations across Korea. Its headquarters provides real-time, around-the-clock monitoring of all fishing ships operating in South Korean waters, and is able to provide assistance in the event of weather-related or hijacking events.
As the world faces serious food shortages, the sustainability of our fisheries has never been more essential. ICFO and KNFC are showing how to make that a reality.