February 27, 2007

Contact: Cornelius Blanding,
Disaster Relief & Recovery Coordinator
404 765 0991

Cooperative Support for New Post-Katrina Fishing Co-op in Louisiana 
Hurricane ravished fishermen regroup as a cooperative

ATLANTA, GA….The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (Federation/LAF) has received funding and support from the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF), Oxfam and USDA Rural Development to assist a group of hurricane-ravaged fishermen southeast of New Orleans come together as a cooperative.

Initial support will go toward developing a feasibility study and business plan for the newly-organized South Plaquemines Parish United Fishermen Cooperative (see photos).

Plaquemines Parish stretches from suburban New Orleans to Louisiana’s southernmost tip, where the Mississippi River dumps into the Gulf of Mexico. It boasts some of the world's best commercial fishing areas. But Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed nearly every dock and 80 percent of the parish’s commercial vessels. Most of the fishermen are still living in FEMA trailers. 

The Federation/LAF, a regional nonprofit that organizes cooperatives to help minority farmers and rural communities, began teaching the fishermen about the cooperative business model soon after disaster struck.  The Federation continues to provide them with technical assistance and training in cooperative business practices.

The cooperative already has over 100 interested members; their articles of incorporation are awaiting approval. The Federation/LAF is also collaborating with Southern University in Baton Rouge and Louisiana State University in these efforts

The fishing cooperative will provide its members with docking facilities as well as a marketing and distribution system that will re-establish the commercial fishing industry in Plaquemines Parish.

‘Co-ops Helping Co-ops’

“There is a wonderful Katrina recovery story evolving in Plaquemines Parish and it’s all about co-ops helping co-ops,” said CDF Board Chair Terry Lewis, who is vice president for cooperative development at NCB. “The fishermen are now taking the initiative to rebuild their lives and organize themselves to become owners of their own cooperative business.” 

“Even before the storms, residents of the lower portion of the Parish were living below the poverty line,” said Cornelius Blanding, the Federation’s Disaster Relief & Recovery Coordinator. “For generations, the fishermen of Plaquemines Parish have had no alternative to the commercial docks for purchase of essential services and sale of their catches at consistently low prices.”

“The fishing families of Plaquemines Parish are truly an inspiration in their commitment to doing what it takes to successfully form this cooperative,” Lewis said. “Not only are they taking the time to learn how to be owners/managers of their own business, but they have the vision to try to change the parish’s culture by including all of the parish’s ethnic groups and fishing specialties as potential members of the cooperative.” 

For contributions to the Federation/LAF to assist in its work with rural communities effected by Hurricane Katrina please donate on line at or send a check to the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, 2769 Church Street, East Point, GA

Note: The Federation/LAF, now in its 39th year,  assists Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise and a whole range of services to ensure family farm survivability.