The Jamaica Fishermen Co-operative Union (then the Jamaica Co-operative Union) started in 1942 as an umbrella organisation for all co-operatives in Jamaica. Jamaica Welfare Limited, a social services organisation started by National Hero, Norman Manley decided to set up the Co-operative to promote the development and to co-ordinate the activities of co-operatives. The organisation grew during the years of World War II, to become a vibrant consumer co-operative, purchasing scarce food items such as flour, sugar and milk, in bulk for member co-operatives that operated buying clubs. The Co-operative Union began supplying fishing equipment to the fishing industry in the 1950's. This aspect of its business grew with the acquisition by fishing co-operatives and 3000 pounds sterling to buy stock.
Today the JFCU is a secondary co-operative society with membership of nine primary fishermen co-operatives and several hundred individual fishermen. Combined membership in the JFCU from these two sources is about 4,000. The JFCU now provides a range of services to its members and other licensed fishermen. It is a major supplier of a wide range of commercial fishing equipment to fishermen in the island and is managed by a nine-man board representing member societies.
The Jamaica Fishermen Co-operative Union Limited is committed to improving the social and economic welfare of its member stakeholders by utilizing their united funds and efforts in an effective and efficient manner. The society shall provide the best quality fishing equipment, goods and services at competitive costs, and protecting the interest of its members and stakeholders through effective representation, public education and by advancing environmental protection.
As a matter of urgency, the organisation has as its immediate objectives:
- To increase membership in its member societies
- To provide for the welfare and training of its members
- To provide a range of commercial fishing equipment at competitive prices
- To work with members to develop the fishing industry while protecting and preserving the marine environment
The organisation has a vital role to play in the protection of the marine environment as this will help stem the decline in the industry and ensure its survival. The Co-operative Union therefore works with environmental authority and non-governmental organisations to do this. These include the Ministry of Agriculture's Fisheries Division; the Natural Resources Conservation Authority; the South Coast Conservation Foundation and the Sea Turtle Recovery Network.
The work being done includes training fishermen to help change cultural practices which are harmful to the marine environment. The Jamaica Fishermen Co-operative Union also supports these efforts by selling equipment such as 1 1/2 inch netting thus ensuring that juvenile fish remain free.
The JFCU provides a number of services to licensed fishermen and to member societies.
These include commercial fishing equipment from its Beechwood Avenue store. The store is stocked with a range of fishing equipment which includes mesh wires, baits, netting, fibre-glass materials, marine ply, lines, and safety equipment. These are supplied to fishermen with licenses who visit its Beechwood Avenue store and to member societies which operates local stores on fishing beaches.
Fishing boats which are attractively priced are being built by the JFCU under the trade name "JACO CRAFT". They are constructed in 28 ft. , 30 ft., and 33 ft. models which comply to the standards the industry demands.
The Jamaica Fishermen Co-operative Union also offers certain benefits to its member societies which are passed on to individual fishermen. These include:
* A Patronage Refund
The refund is granted to member societies and individual fishermen, who shop with the JFCU. It is a percentage of the amount
of money spent with the JFCU on goods and services over the period of one year. The amount of the refund is decided by delegates representing their co-operatives at the JFCU Annual General Meeting. The refund is only paid if the JFCU makes a surplus on its operations at the end of the year.
* Dividends on Shares
A dividend is also paid to member societies at the end of the year, if there is a surplus. This amount is also approved by delegates at the JFCU's Annual General Meeting. The dividend is paid to the share accounts of member societies and is a percentage of the share accounts of individual fishermen by the societies to which they belong. The amount must be decided by delegates at the Annual General Meeting of the local co-operative.
There are three scholarships available, two for the children of members of fishing co-operatives or members of the Jamaica Fishermen Co-operative Union. These are the ROY ANDERSON MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP for primary school children and the DENNIS FOREMAN SCHOLARSHIP for children from high school to tertiary level. The third, JAMES KIRLEW SCHOLARSHIP is also available for employees of the JFCU to upgrade their skills. Applications for these scholarships can be made to the JFCU directly or through local co-operatives.
Membership in JFCU is open to registered fishing co-operatives or any other society registered under the Co-operative Societies Act which agrees to comply with the requirements of the Rules. Any organisation wishing to become a member of JFCU must purchase at least 5,000 shares for a price $1.00 per share and must pay a membership fee of $1,500.00.
For an individual who wishes to become a member of a local co-operative he/she should visit the co-operative and fill out the relevant application forms.