FAO Home>Fisheries & Aquaculture
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nationsfor a world without hunger
EspañolFrançaisРусский
The designations employed and the presentation of material in the map(s) are for illustration only and do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal or constitutional status of any country, territory or sea area, or concerning the delimitation of frontiers or boundaries.

Part I Overview and main indicators

  1. Country brief
  2. General geographic and economic indicators
  3. FAO Fisheries statistics

Part II Narrative (2016)

  1. Production sector
    • Marine sub-sector
      • Catch profile
      • Landing sites
      • Fishing practices/systems
      • Main resources
      • Management applied to main fisheries
      • Fishing communities
    • Aquaculture sub-sector
    • Recreational sub-sector
  2. Post-harvest sector
  3. Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sector
    • Food security
  4. Trends, issues and development
    • Constraints and opportunities
    • Research, education and training
      • Research
  5. Institutional framework
  6. Legal framework
    • Regional and international legal framework
  7. Annexes
  8. References

Additional information

  1. FAO Thematic data bases
  2. Publications
  3. Meetings & News archive

Part I Overview and main indicators

Part I of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile is compiled using the most up-to-date information available from the FAO Country briefs and Statistics programmes at the time of publication. The Country Brief and the FAO Fisheries Statistics provided in Part I may, however, have been prepared at different times, which would explain any inconsistencies.

Country briefGreenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark which consists of Denmark, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland. Greenland has the legislative power in areas of responsibility which have been or are transferred from the Danish state to the Greenland Self Government amongst which the fisheries sector.

Greenland’s agriculture and livestock activities are very limited and its economic activities have traditionally been sea-oriented. Fishing is the primary industry of the country. Greenland has a total of 22 ports located throughout the country but not all ports are accessible all year around. Greenland’s deeply indented coastline is 39 330km long. The continental shelf is approximately of 260 007 km2 and the fishing zone is of about 186 552 km2.

There were 297 Greenlandic fishing estimated vessels registered in the Danish Maritime Authority`s Registry in 2014. The fishing fleet for management purposes is mainly split between coastal fishing and ocean fishing.

Coastal fleet are less than 120 GT, however there are exemptions. This fleet is mainly managed by fishing licences within both the Individual Transferable Quota system (ITQ) and free quota within TAC limits. Main commercial species in Greenlandic waters are demersal species, however crustaceans and pelagic species do also play a major role for the industry.

In the offshore fishery traditionally two species are major subjects; shrimp and Greenland halibut but from 2012 the Atlantic mackerel has also become increasingly important. The shrimp fishery is managed by an ITQ system and the Greenland halibut fishery is managed by licensing and TAC restrictions.

Marine capture production has been increasing during last years between 209 000 tonnes and 292 000 tonnes from 2010 to 2014. Bulk of the catches are Atlantic mackerel (86 000 tonnes) and Northern prawn (78 000 tonnes). No inland catches are reported.

The catch of marine mammals as a traditional activity of the Inuit culture remains active in Greenland, even though raising some contentious between Greenland and other non-whaling countries.

Perhaps due to the lack of experience with aquaculture, the very high costs of operation in Greenland and the adverse weather conditions Aquaculture production is inexistent in Greenland.

The fisheries sector plays a significant contribution to the Greenland’s economy and a crucial role in domestic food consumption. In 2014, exports of fish and fishery products (worth USD 515 million) represented more than 95% of total merchandise trade of the country. Main products exported were shrimp, halibut, cod and crab. In the same year, Greenland’s imports of fish and fishery products were valued at only USD 0.6 million. The annual apparent per capita fish consumption is one of the highest at world level, with an estimated 86.9 kg per capita in 2013.

In Greenland, the fisheries sector provided about 6 800 jobs in 2013.

Falling shrimp prices have put fisheries under pressure in recent years. At the same time, overfishing and declining levels of shrimp in Greenlandic waters have led to a reduction of the shrimp quota by 25% from 2012 to 2013.

Greenland has fishing agreements with the Faroe Islands, Norway, Russia, Iceland, and the EU. The agreement with the EU is the only agreement in which the granting of fishing rights in Greenlandic waters is matched by an annual economic contribution. The other agreements ensure Greenland rights to fish in other the waters of other nations while other nations are granted the same rights for fishing in Greenlandic waters.

The island’s dependence on a fish industry that is rather susceptible to problems of overfishing and marketing fluctuating prices, has become one of the main challenges in the late 20th century. Greenland therefore attempted to diversify its economy, and much emphasis was placed on the tourist industry. Greenland is also a focus of the EU’s Arctic policy.

Greenland has been Party to the 1982 UN Convention of the Law of the Sea since 16 November 2004 when it was ratified by the Kingdom of Denmark. (Treaties ratified by the Kingdom of Denmark are automatically extended to Greenland unless the ratification is accompanied by a declaration or other statement that the treaty does not extend to Greenland.)
 
General geographic and economic indicators

Table 1 - General Geographic and Economic Data - Greenland

    Source
Marine water area (including the EEZ) 186 552 km2 Sea around us: http://www.seaaroundus.org/
Shelf area 260 007 km2 Sea around us: http://www.seaaroundus.org/
Length of continental coastline 39 330 km

Encyclopaedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/place/Greenland

Fisheries GDP Not available  
*Value converted by FAO as per UN currency exchange rate

Key statistics

 Source
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) area2 270 601km2VLIZ

Source: FAO Country Profile

FAO Fisheries statisticsTable 2 in this section is based on statistics prepared by the FAO Fishery Information, Data and Statistics Unit and disseminated in 2016. The charts are based on the same source but these are automatically updated every year with the most recent statistics.

Table 2— FAO fisheries statistics - Greenland

      1980 1990 2000 2010 2012 2013 2014
PRODUCTION (thousand tonnes) 103.74 143.33 159.71 209.45 222.89 270.40 293.50
    Inland
    Marine 103.74 143.33 159.71 209.45 222.89 270.40 293.50
  Aquaculture
    Inland
    Marine
  Capture 103.74 143.33 159.71 209.45 222.89 270.40 293.50
    Inland
    Marine 103.74 143.33 159.71 209.45 222.89 270.48 293.50
                   
TRADE (USD million)              
  Import 0.78 1.83 1.43 6.03 5.70 9.50 5.60
  Export 137.56 375.91 266.32 355.62 446.50 462.50 470.80
                   
EMPLOYMENT (thousands) 3.41 3.41 3.43 3.52
  Aquaculture              
  Capture 3.41 3.41 3.43 3.52
    Inland              
    Marine              
                   
FLEET(thousands boats) 0.08 0.46 1.00 0.49 0.34 0.38 0.30
                   
APPARENT FOOD CONSUMPTION              
  Fish food supply (thousand tonnes in live weight equivalent) 4.17 4.63 4.73 4.91 4.91 4.95  
  Per Capita Supply (kilograms) 83.40 82.60 84.40 86.10 86.20 86.90  
  Fish Proteins (grams per capita per day) 23.70 21.50 18.60 28.70 28.50 27.50  
  Fish/Animal Proteins (%) 33.00 33.20 37.00 40.50 44.10 39.60  
  Fish/Total Proteins (%) 22.20 23.50 24.70 25.30 26.80 25.50  
                   
Source: FAO Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics
1) Excluding aquatic plants
2) Due to roundings total may not sum up




:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:

Updated 2016Part II Narrative

Part II of the Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profile provides supplementary information that is based on national and other sources and that is valid at the time of compilation (see update year above). References to these sources are provided as far as possible.

Production sectorAlthough Greenland has a relatively brief yet vibrant fishing history, the contemporary significance of fishing is incontrovertible, particularly within small- and large-scale marine capture fisheries. As the largest island in the world, Greenland stretches over 23 latitudinal degrees (60-83°N). Fishing takes place largely throughout the entire coastline, particularly within the reach of small settlements and towns as well as offshore. Although the country lacks inland fishing on account of the extent of world’s second largest ice cap across its land, it hosts substantial marine and recreational fisheries. As the most sparsely-populated country in the world, small-scale fisheries play a vital role in the national economy and are an important livelihood for Greenlanders. Fisheries ensure food security, help reduce poverty and support cultural cohesion throughout the towns and small settlements that speckle the country’s 44,087 km2 of coastline

Marine sub-sectorCatch profileAs the largest contributor to fisheries capture production in Greenland, the marine sub-sector has seen consistent positive growth over the last three decades. Greenland’s main marine capture fisheries consist of mackerel, capelin, Atlantic cod, Greenland halibut, Atlantic halibut, Blue whiting, haddock, Saithe, Roundnose grenadier, Greenland cod, Polar cod, Ling, Lumpfish, Redfish, Wolffish, Queen crab, Atlantic herring, Atlantic salmon, Arctic char, and Iceland scallop. The wild capture species have remained more or less the same, with the exception of a new Atlantic mackerel fishery that began with modest landings in 2011. Greenland shark, Raja rays, Tusk, Ling and American plaice as part of Greenland’s marine capture production as they are no longer caught commercially.

Northern prawn: The shrimp or Northern prawn (Pandalus borealis) fishery takes place throughout the West coast of Greenland. The fishing fleet for Northern prawn is state-of-the-art and boasts ultra-efficient onboard processing capabilities and limited bycatch. 25% of all catches in Greenland are landed in towns and settlements by law to support the local labor markets. The remaining 75% of catches are processed on board. While some processed product are destined for local consumption, most are exported to the European Union as well as to Asia, where in particular a market exists for the largest Northern prawn.

The Northern prawn continues to dominate the sub-sector in capture production, followed by Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) and thereafter by Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides). However, 2008 was the highest landing year on record for Northern prawn and has since experienced a downward trend of capture production of this high-value species.

Atlantic Mackerel (Scomber scombrus): A mackerel fishery has become viable in recent years due in part to changing ocean temperatures, which have forced stocks to migrate northward. Fishing began in 2011 with a modest capture production and has since exploded to being the second largest fishery by capture production.

Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides): In contrast to the Northern prawn fishery, Greenland halibut has maintained a positive rate of growth since the 1980s and has not experienced reduced capture production in recent years, notwithstanding 2007 and 2010. The Northern prawn fishery is almost exclusively carried out by large-scale fishing operators, while the Greenland halibut fishery is realized through both small- and large-scale fishing activity. Small-scale fishers contribute to the capture production of Greenland halibut within the three-mile coastal area and are heavily concentrated in Qeqertarsuup tunua (English, Disko Bay) and Nuup Kangerlua (English, Nuuk Fjord). Offshore fishing of Greenland halibut is the exclusive domain of large-scale operators and takes place throughout the Davis Strait.

Since the 1980s, capture production for Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) continues a negative trend of capture production. However, after landings were nearly cut in half in the 1990s, marine capture production has maintained positive growth. Unlike cod, the inshore capelin (Mallotus villosus) fishery has fluctuated. In the mid to late 1990’s, capture production peaked and has since oscillated between lower and higher capture production relative to previous years. Although not a hallmark species of Greenland’s seafood export, Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) has been fished since 2001, but only recently has it entered Greenland’s top-ten largest marine capture production fisheries.

Lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus), which are caught primarily by Greenland’s expansive small-scale fishing fleet, have been and continue to be a mainstay fishery for the country. Capture production for Lumpfish remains stable, although recent certification of this fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council is expected to have limiting effects on capture production and in turn further stabilize the fishery.

The redfish (Sebastes marinus) fishery has seen significant fluctuations in marine capture production, from periods of low landings to multi-year campaigns where stocks were fished with yields increasing every year, followed thereafter by sharp drop-offs. As a slow-growing species, redfish require several years to reach maturity, which is why the fishery has experienced periods of low capture production and maintains an historically neutral trend of marine capture production.

Since landings peaked in 2001, marine capture production for Queen crab have suffered a drastic downward trend with landings approaching the size that they were when the fishery began in 1992. Wolffish (Anarhichas lupus) maintain a negative trend with catches in the 80s being four times what they were in 2014. In the last five years, marine capture production has plateaued and there are no indicators that this fishery is expected to increase.

A small but valuable fishery, Iceland scallops (Chlamys islandica) continues a modest positive trend of growth over the lifetime of the fishery. Atlantic salmon and Arctic char (Salmo salar and Salvelinus alpinus, respectively) are among the smallest fisheries in terms of marine capture production. Both Atlantic salmon and Arctic char maintain historically downward trends of marine capture production. At present, Atlantic salmon are a restricted domestic-only, subsistence fishery, which significantly limits marine capture production. Arctic char, like Atlantic salmon are also a fish commonly caught for subsistence and domestic consumption.
Landing sitesThere are several small and a few major landing sites throughout Greenland. In 2014, the largest landings by volume were in the port of Ilulissat, followed by Aasiaat, Nuuk and Sisimiut, all of which are on the West coast of Greenland. Northern prawn is the most commonly landed species in Nuuk, followed by Atlantic cod, Lumpfish and Greenland halibut. While more Northern prawn are landed in Sisimiut than in Nuuk, fewer Lumpfish are landed there when compared to Nuuk.

Aasiaat receives the largest landings of Northern prawn. Ilulissat receives more Greenland halibut than any other port in Greenland, due largely to the dominance of Greeland halibut fishing in the Disko Bay. Of the species landed in smaller amounts, Paamiut is where the highest landings of Queen crab are landed. Maniitsoq receives the highest landings of Wolffish and Nuuk has highest landings of Atlantic salmon, due in part to the nearby Kapisillit River where salmon run. More capelin are landed in Qasigiannguit than anywhere else in the country.

Fishing practices/systemsGreenland’s fishers utilize a wide array of some of the most technologically advanced techniques as well as an assortment of regionally-determined methods. The largest marine capture production fisheries take place with the support of Greenland’s modern and ultra-efficient trawlers, some of which use 3D sonar, net weight and depth sensors as well as video cameras to ensure high yields and to reduce bycatch. These and other technologies are especially important in the trawl fisheries for Northern prawn and Greenland halibut.

Large vessels, of which there are few, catch cod, haddock and saithe in the Barents Sea as well as mackerel, capelin, herring and whiting in East Greenland and to a lesser extent in Iceland. Greenland halibut are also fished in North and Southwest Greenland. Onboard processing of sea-cooked shrimp is the most common processing methods. A proportion of shrimp product is sold raw with minimal processing to high-end markets in Japan and some for human consumption as well as for industrial purposes in overseas markets. Capacity of some of the largest vessels can exceed 10,000 tons.

Inshore vessels implement a number of similar technologies and are also known to use more selective gear, particularly long-line methods. Drawing heavily from Iceland and Denmark’s technological offerings for advanced and automated long-line systems, several vessels that fish for Greenland halibut, Redfish and other ground fish with a high degree of efficiency and selectivity. Electronic jigging machines as well as hand jigging remain especially popular for fishing cod (Gadus morhua) and are also found on small dinghies. Although the largest yields of cod are caught during the summer months with cod traps from small and large vessels. Crab fishing takes place with crab pots and buoys and scallop fishing with trawler dredges.

Although the small-scale or inshore fleet may use the smallest average vessel length overall, its technology is also efficient and in some cases novel. In the inshore coastal shelf areas, cod are caught with hand and spindle jigging. In winter months, especially in North Greenland, Greenland halibut are caught on the sea ice with spindle long-lines which are cast through a hole in the ice and drift away from the fisher and her/his dog sledge.

In summer months, capelin (Mallotus villosus) are caught with pole nets in inner fjord areas where they are found in exceptionally large concentrations. In similar geographical areas, salmon and Arctic char (Salmo salar and Salvelinus alpinus, respectively) are fished with gillnets which are customarily anchored to land and set seaward about 10-15m. These gillnets are usually kept afloat near the surface to catch migrating chars and salmons with the aid of buoys. Similar to the char and salmon fishery is lumpfish fishing, which is carried out with the same gillnets used for chars and salmon but which are cast as driftnets and as nets affixed on one end to the coastline.

Greenland’s fishing fleets have adapted to shifts in the country’s fisheries policy. Fleet reorganization has led to a downward trend of vessel numbers over the past twenty years, due in part both to increasing efficiency and in some cases shrinking maximum sustainable yields for certain fishes such as was the case of cod in the 1990s. Agreements with neighboring countries such as Norway, Iceland and Russia have helped to retain employment and vessel usage during periods when national quotas were low. Although subsistence, small-scale fishing vessels are not counted as part of national fleet statistics, the regulatory body, Greenland Fisheries and License Control (GFLK), estimate the fleet size of small-scale fishing vessels to be approximately 1,500 and growing. With conservative estimates, the small-scale fishing fleet of Greenland is over five times the number of the registered vessels.

Main resourcesThe principal stocks exploited by Greenland are concentrated within the country’s EEZ but also throughout FAO zones 21 and 27. Greenland’s fishing privileges extend northeast to the Svalbard zone, into the Barents Sea and as far South as the Flemish Cap region off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. As mentioned earlier, Greenland’s primary marine capture production is centered around demersal fisheries, with special attention on Northern prawn (Pandalus borealis) and Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides). Cod (Gadus morhua), haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus), Pollock (Pollachius virens) and to an increasing degree Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) are also main resources of Greenland’s fisheries. There is an upward trend of exploitation of pelagic mackerel stocks off the coast of Greenland. While tuna now enter East Greenlandic waters, a tuna fishery does not yet exist nor are bycatch of tuna in mackerel fisheries reported in national statistics.

Management applied to main fisheriesThe fisheries of Greenland are managed through an array of allocation systems. Management can be broken into inshore and small-scale fisheries and offshore, large-scale sectors. The basis of Greenland’s fisheries for both small and large sectors is the total allowable catch (TAC) as recommended through the biological advice of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources and mandated by the Ministry of Hunting, Fisheries and Agriculture of the Government of Greenland.

Inshore and Small-Scale Fisheries Management:

To manage the several thousand dinghies and other small, open-deck vessels, managers further break the coastal fleets into two categories:

  1. ITQ fisheries with TAC
  2. TAC, Free-quota fisheries (also referred to as Olympic fisheries)


Vessel size is also a factor that splits offshore and coastal fishing fleets, as no vessel larger than 120 GT is permitted within the 3-mile limit. Some exceptions do exist whereby shrimp trawlers operate within the 3-mile limit. Some small vessels also operate outside of the 3-mile limit for the purposes of fishing lumpfish.

Offshore Fisheries Management

Offshore vessels are managed with the ITQ system as well as licenses and abide by the TAC. Trawls are the only gear allowed for the two principal exploited stocks of Northern prawn and Greenland halibut. The Northern prawn fishery is conducted under an ITQ whereas the Greenland halibut and Atlantic mackerel fishery utilizes licenses and a TAC.

The Government of Greenland is responsible for allocating all licenses for the Northern prawn fishery, of which four types of commercial, transferrable licenses are available. While all offshore fishing operators are required by law to land at least 25% of catches for on-land processing, there also exists one license for fishing shrimp within the 3-mile limit fishers that requires all catches be landed to a processing plant.

For Greenland halibut, the primary management areas are broken into two zones: above and below 68°00’N. While the Southern region is one area including both West and East Greenland, the Northern region is further divided into three management areas. In the Southern region fishers are required to possess a license and sell their catch to Greenlandic processors. In the Northern region, the management areas of Disko bay, Uummannaq and Upernavik constitute the largest supply of and value of Greenland halibut in all of Greenland. In the three management areas of the Northern region, further vessel restrictions are in place that restrict vessels over 31.99 GT (Executive Order No. 2, 2nd Februrary 2012, Coastal Fisheries for Greenland Halibut, Section 1). This restriction only applies within the 3-mile inshore zone.

Licenses

Eligibility to apply for a license to fish is based upon the applicant’s history of fishing full-time in the previous two calendar years and that more than 50% of their income is derived from fishing activities. This is set out in the Fisheries Management Act, no. 18 of 31st October 1996. The following species are available to a license holder under an open access TAC: cod, redfish, catfish, capelin, salmon and other insignificant amounts of other fish (Berthlsen, 2014: 5). Because the TAC is available to all license holders, a ‘race to fish’ is common if the TAC for a specific species is a main resource is too small to be equitably shared among license holders. This behavior is why the fishery is referred to as ‘Olympic’ in nature.

The Queen crab fishery of Greenland is restricted to vessels below 120 GT with the exception of a 250 MT quota that is allocated to the EU. For comparative purposes, in 2014, the TAC was 2,800 MT, of which 2,550 were available for local, coastal fishers. Quotas are allocated only for the West coast, in which six management zones are differentiated. Fishers are allowed to set a maximum of 50 pots per cast with a mesh size no smaller than 140 mm. Only males can be landed and must be larger than 100 mm across the shell. The fishery has a high value to weight ratio. The TAC for Queen Crab has been reduced at the same time as landings are declining.

The Lumpfish fishery utilizes a combination of management instruments to ensure sustainability and to uphold its recently-awarded Marine Stewardship Council’s certification. Fishing-day limits and a quota have been introduced to uphold the MSC certification. A majority of the fishing activity takes place aboard vessels shorter than 30 feet LOA, although a handful of larger vessels also participate. The start and stop days of the fishery are decided through stakeholder consultation and are based upon the quality of the roe. Although lumpfish fishing can take place throughout the NAFO areas, the most value is generated from areas outside of Nuuk.

As a longstanding fishery in Greenland, fishing for cod requires only a standard fishing and hunting license issued from the Government of Greenland. Since the 1990’s when cod disappeared rapidly, the marine capture production of this staple fish have been low and so too have the stock assessments. To allow stocks to rebuild, cod TACs remained low through 2018. The fishery is open to cod traps, handlines and gillnets, with the trap season taking place in May and June. Gillnet usage are approved for use by local municipalities. In light of the hope that the cod stock will rebound and once again become a staple fishery, the cod fishery is subsidized to keep it afloat. In turn, fishers who participate in the cod fishery in non-competitive areas are paid the lowest prices per kilo, particularly in settlements where cod is one of the very few fishes caught and sold.

Management objectives

The principal objective of Greenland’s fisheries management is to ensure sustainable and economical national fisheries. The recent coalition agreement between Siumut, Demokraatit and Atassut of 2014-2018 establishes that dynamic development must be initiated within fisheries, tourism, land-based activities, and the trades and industry. The management that is in place is designed to ensure that new income opportunities are driven from fisheries and the fisheries industry with the ultimate goal of ensuring higher returns to society.

Fishing communitiesAlmost all of Greenland’s towns and settlements can be described as fishing communities, as subsistence and/or recreational fishing takes place in all locales with few exceptions. More importantly, local economies in many settlements and towns are supported by land-based, post-harvest activities and/or small and large-scale fishing activities. The towns, Nuuk, Sisimiut, Ilulissat, Qaqortoq, Aasiaat, Maniitsoq, Paamiut, Narsaq, Nanortalik, Uummannaq, Upernavik and Qasigiannguit are fishing communities. Exceptions include settlements and towns in East Greenland, where economies are largely supported by tourism and hunting activities, as well as inner-fjord settlements, such as Kangerlussuaq. In settlements and towns, fishing is recognized as important for its economic contributions, for cultural cohesion and for food security.

Aquaculture sub-sectorAt present, Greenland does not support an aquaculture sub-sector, due to its terrestrial geography. Most of the landmass is covered by the world’s second largest ice sheet, lakes are frozen for most of the year and the prospects of digging aquaculture ponds are limited on account of the limited soil and available terrestrial sedimentation. Biogeographically, the Arctic is characterized by slow growth, whereas aquaculture has primarily thrived in latitudes closer to the equator. Exceptions found in Norway and Canada suggest that Greenland could develop an aquaculture sub-sector within its marine waters in the future.

One major, government-owned seafood company, Royal Greenland A/S, has experimented with mariculture cages for Atlantic cod near Maniitsoq, Greenland. However, national statistics do not differentiate capture fisheries from these activities. There have also been unsuccessful attempts to farm char (Salvelinus alpinus) and blue mussels (Mytilus edulis), but results have not been profitable. In addition, researchers from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources have begun exploring the potential for seaweed production through wild capture production as well as in a farmed manner.

Recreational sub-sectorRecreational fishing is especially vital and politically prioritized in Greenland. A significant majority of the population engage in recreational fishing, the primary purpose of which is for subsistence. Forthcoming reports from the Economy of the North Initiative indicate that subsistence fishing activities play an important role in local food security, are crucial for sustaining cultural cohesion and are also recognized by many to be part of Inuit heritage. Subsistence fishing is a cultural heritage activity and manifests itself throughout East and West Greenland, from North to South.

Fishing recreationally does not require a license or permit and can be carried out in a non-commercial capacity using small dinghies. Commonly fished fishes include Atlantic cod by hand-line, Greenland halibut, wolfish and redfish by pole, Lumpfish, Arctic char and salmon by drifting or partially-anchored gillnets, and blue mussels and sea urchins by hand or with a pole net.

All fish can be caught recreationally with the exception of salmon, which requires residents of Greenland to apply for a license. Greenland’s fisheries control body, Greenland Fisheries and License Control (GFLK) are heavily invested in the monitoring of the salmon fishery. GFLK tracks daily catch returns and license utilization. When the fishery closes, GFLK staff call the several hundred license holders with the request to ensure all catches have been reported and that all fishing activity has stopped.

Post-harvest sectorThe post-harvest sector in Greenland is supplied with unprocessed fish from landings carried out by Greenlandic fishing vessels in Greenlandic waters. The post-harvest sector is broken into onboard and land-based processing facilities. All inshore vessels are required to land 100% of fish unprocessed, whereas offshore vessels are required to land only 25% of fish unprocessed. This legislation is designed to support local labor markets where employment opportunities are otherwise limited and occasionally volatile.

Fish factories are found throughout the coasts of Greenland. Depending on market prices, factories have historically opened and closed with a high degree of volatility, which especially stresses small settlement labor markets where employment alternatives are limited or non-existent. However, many factories provide regular employment and in high seasons, additional positions become available. The post-harvest sector’s employment base fluctuates in summer months when the climate is conducive to recreational hunting and fishing. Factories struggle to keep up with landed catches as portions of the workforce take leave in the summer months. Employers also take on and reduce portions of the factory workforce on account of shifts in market prices, fluctuations in landings and other environmental factors.

The utilization of ‘more of the fish’ has historically been limited in Greenland. However, global momentum and regional leaders of maximum fish utilization in the sub-Arctic region have provided examples and inspiration to Greenlandic firms to grow the sector. Northern prawn are processed in some quantities for nonhuman consumption and there is promise in the cod fishery to produce fish oils and powder from bones, although neither of the latter are currently taking place. The fishing industry of Iceland in collaboration with the Consulate of Iceland has organized fishing industry trips to Iceland to promote knowledge sharing. Participation in those events has been sparse. However, the coalition agreement between the political parties of Siumut, Demokraatit and Atassut of 2014-2018 has consensus and has agreed to ensure that fish processing uses all of the raw material.

Socio-economic contribution of the fishery sectorGreenland receives a block grant of ca. USD 570 million per year from Denmark, the amount of which has been frozen since 2009 when the country attained a self-rule governance. The provisional figure for GDP in 2013 was USD$11,198 million and the real GDP growth rate was -1.9%. Since 1980 and in the past decade, production in both inshore and offshore fisheries maintain a positive trend of growth. Typically, offshore fisheries contribute more in marine capture production and value than inshore variants. Fishing has historically been the second-largest employer, with public administration and service employing almost three times the number of people working in the fishing sector. Since Greenland achieved a self-rule status in 2009, fishing has become very profitable, but not as profitable as wholesale, retail and repair work was in 2014.

Greenland’s fisheries sector is an essential industry upon which many settlement economies and their residents depend. The dependence upon Greenland’s marine capture fisheries is especially pronounced in settlements where fishing and post-harvest employment constitute the largest source of income for its residents. Even though many settlement fishers are paid the lowest prices per kilo in the country, their ability to sell fish regularly provides crucial economic stability to the settlements. To further support the role of fisheries in the national economy, the Coalition Agreement of Siumut, Demokraatit and Atassut for 2014-2018 set out to increase the earnings from fisheries, the policies of which are rooted in the concerns of settlement constituents whose economic opportunities are largely limited to fishing.

Looking outward, Greenland’s national trade portfolio is marked primarily by the import of raw materials and in particular fuels and the export of fish and fish products. Europe is the largest market of Greenland’s fish exports, followed by Asia, and North America. Growth in Asian markets continues a positive trend. Most of Greenland’s exports are for human consumption with a small portion utilized for nonhuman consumption. Trade takes place almost exclusively through Denmark, namely through the port of Aalborg, where Royal Arctic Line, the Government-owned shipping monopoly has its Danish port. All goods coming in and out of Greenland that travel by ship must be carried by Royal Arctic Line. Greenland’s capacity to expand trade is limited by the shipping monopoly, despite markets for its fish products being strong in nearby countries. It is national policy to increase taxes levied on unprocessed fish that is exported, the goal of which is to augment employment opportunities on land and in turn to grow the country’s post-harvest sector.

Food securityComprehensive national surveys such as the Survey of Living Conditions in the Arctic indicate that subsistence economies that are built around the sharing of fish and meat remain important in Greenland and contribute to food security (Poppel, 2011; Poppel and Kruse, 2009; Snyder and Poppel, 2016). Although all towns and settlements in Greenland have access to food shipped in from Denmark, the frequency of shipments is more limited in East Greenland and in more remote settlements. In particular, residents of smaller or more remote settlements augment protein intake with fish that, a. are shared by fellow residents, b. purchased from local fish markets, and/or c. are caught from small dinghies.

Trends, issues and developmentThe fishery sector faces several constraints as well as opportunities. Economic growth through the fishery sector is constrained by the abundance of several key living marine resources. The Northern prawn fishery is the highest value fishery and is in decline. In addition, while the Greenland halibut fishery of above 68°00’N is managed, fishing activities below 68°00’N and in particular within the Nuuk Fjord lack the political will to implement management and have been described by the scientific community to be at risk (Siegstad, 2010). The Minister of Fisheries has called for the implementation of a TAC in the Nuuk Fjord but a quota has not been established.

Greenland is biogeographically constrained from developing an aquaculture sector, as cold water temperatures inhibit rapid growth of fish species suited for aquaculture. Infrastructurally and geographically, while Greenland’s shipping monopoly with the Government-owned Royal Arctic Line provides reliable service to all settlements, other major shippers are not permitted to ship goods to Greenland or from the country or to other nearby ports in Iceland, North America and throughout Europe where expansive markets exist. The principal issues with the shipping arrangement are that it can constrict access to alternative markets and regulates competitive pricing for Greenland’s high quality seafood offerings.

There are however a number of opportunities that could further Greenland’s national fisheries objectives. Royal Greenland has recently invested in Quin-Sea-Fisheries, the first-ever acquisition of a Canadian seafood company by the Government-owned seafood company. The acquisition could augment Greenland’s knowledge around the fishing of Queen crab, Northern prawn and other North Atlantic fishes and shellfish, several of which have suffered declines in capture production in recent years.

On the front of education and research, higher education for natural resource sciences will increase in the next decade as the University of Greenland expands its disciplinary offerings for hard science subjects. Partnerships with the adjacent Greenland Institute of Natural Resources will provide hands-on training, research exposure and teaching resources. A Greenlandic natural science program will strengthen the competitiveness of Greenlandic students who seek careers in the management and science of living marine resources in their home country.

In relation to new fisheries, Greenland has several unexploited living marine resources that hold value for international markets. Red, brown and green seaweeds are found in great abundance throughout Greenland’s coasts. Robust markets exist for seaweeds and aquatic plants and some research on seaweed growth is ongoing at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources. In addition, the exploitation of sea cucumber and sea urchin holds high promise for export to Asian markets. Although gear, processing, packaging and supply-chain development of a sea urchin fishery is ongoing, scientific, management, and control assessments of a sea urchin fishery have yet to be produced with comparable detail.

While previous aquaculture projects in Greenland have largely failed, new technological offerings in the aquaculture sector and ongoing projects with Atlantic cod near Maniitsoq are equipping Royal Greenland with the experience and know-how to lead a mariculture sector should it become economically viable within the cold waters of Greenland. The fishery that currently holds the most appeal for Greenland’s marine capture production is the Atlantic mackerel fishery, which, if managed and exploited with care, could help make up for recent declines in the marine capture production of other staple fisheries. In the long-term, the possibility also exists that warming water temperatures could bring other fisheries to Greenland and diminish the abundance of pre-existing ones. Constraints and opportunitiesThe fishery sector faces several constraints as well as opportunities. Economic growth through the fishery sector is constrained by the abundance of several key living marine resources. The Northern prawn fishery is the highest value fishery and is in decline. In addition, while the Greenland halibut fishery of above 68°00’N is managed, fishing activities below 68°00’N and in particular within the Nuuk Fjord lack the political will to implement management and have been described by the scientific community to be at risk (Siegstad, 2010). The Minister of Fisheries has called for the implementation of a TAC in the Nuuk Fjord but a quota has not been established.

Greenland is biogeographically constrained from developing an aquaculture sector, as cold water temperatures inhibit rapid growth of fish species suited for aquaculture. Infrastructurally and geographically, while Greenland’s shipping monopoly with the Government-owned Royal Arctic Line provides reliable service to all settlements, other major shippers are not permitted to ship goods to Greenland or from the country or to other nearby ports in Iceland, North America and throughout Europe where expansive markets exist. The principal issues with the shipping arrangement are that it can constrict access to alternative markets and regulates competitive pricing for Greenland’s high quality seafood offerings.

There are however a number of opportunities that could further Greenland’s national fisheries objectives. Royal Greenland has recently invested in Quin-Sea-Fisheries, the first-ever acquisition of a Canadian seafood company by the Government-owned seafood company. The acquisition could augment Greenland’s knowledge around the fishing of Queen crab, Northern prawn and other North Atlantic fishes and shellfish, several of which have suffered declines in capture production in recent years.

On the front of education and research, higher education for natural resource sciences will increase in the next decade as the University of Greenland expands its disciplinary offerings for hard science subjects. Partnerships with the adjacent Greenland Institute of Natural Resources will provide hands-on training, research exposure and teaching resources. A Greenlandic natural science program will strengthen the competitiveness of Greenlandic students who seek careers in the management and science of living marine resources in their home country.

In relation to new fisheries, Greenland has several unexploited living marine resources that hold value for international markets. Red, brown and green seaweeds are found in great abundance throughout Greenland’s coasts. Robust markets exist for seaweeds and aquatic plants and some research on seaweed growth is ongoing at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources. In addition, the exploitation of sea cucumber and sea urchin holds high promise for export to Asian markets. Although gear, processing, packaging and supply-chain development of a sea urchin fishery is ongoing, scientific, management, and control assessments of a sea urchin fishery have yet to be produced with comparable detail.

While previous aquaculture projects in Greenland have largely failed, new technological offerings in the aquaculture sector and ongoing projects with Atlantic cod near Maniitsoq are equipping Royal Greenland with the experience and know-how to lead a mariculture sector should it become economically viable within the cold waters of Greenland. The fishery that currently holds the most appeal for Greenland’s marine capture production is the Atlantic mackerel fishery, which, if managed and exploited with care, could help make up for recent declines in the marine capture production of other staple fisheries. In the long-term, the possibility also exists that warming water temperatures could bring other fisheries to Greenland and diminish the abundance of pre-existing ones.

Research, education and trainingResearchFisheries science research in Greenland is carried out primarily through Pinngortitaleriffik, the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, which is primarily funded by the Government of Greenland with occasional research support provided by international research grants.

The Fish and Shellfish Department is responsible for carrying out research and providing biological advice that is used by the Ministry of Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture to design and execute the country’s fisheries management. Research is primarily focused on stock assessments, although other important work is carried out including the analysis of log books and other fisheries statistics, preparing reports and communicating science to the public and policy stakeholders. Pinngortitaleriffik staff scientists routinely participate in the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), the International Committee for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) meetings as well as other fisheries conferences and symposia.

In addition to the Fish and Shellfish Department, the Climate Research Center and to a lesser degree the Mammals and Birds Departments also collaborate with fisheries scientists on cross-disciplinary research. Funded by the Danish National Budget, the Climate Research Center is focused on ‘enhancing the knowledge of the Greenland Marine ecosystem in relation to climate change and the exploitation of living marine resources’.

Beyond national scientific efforts, international researchers from Scandinavia and elsewhere also carry out fisheries research in Greenland. Concerning education, most Greenlandic nationals with an interest in fisheries science, management and ecology study in Denmark as no university-level, natural science higher education is currently offered in country. There are plans to bring increased natural science educational opportunities to Greenland within the next decade through the construction of a natural science program at the University of Greenland. All students who choose a university education in Greenland and Denmark are able to do so without paying for tuition and maintenance. Most students choose to study in Denmark and/or Greenland as international study is not fully covered by the Government of Greenland. Vocational training for skippers, post-harvest workers and captains is offered through the Greenland Maritime Center in Nuuk, Greenland.

Institutional frameworkThe institutional fisheries framework in Greenland is housed under the remit of the Parliament of Greenland and in particular under Minister of Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture. She/he is responsible for leading the administrative engine of the Ministry of Fisheries, which is a part of the Government of Greenland.

Beyond political influence and governmental oversight, Greenland’s fisheries sector is supported by Kalaallit Nunaanni Aalisartut Piniartullu Kattuffiat, the Association of Hunters and Fishers of Greenland (KNAPK). KNAPK has several regional associations of its organization that share information and political interests related to fisheries with the headquarters in Nuuk. KNAPK has strong connections with small-scale fishers through its membership as well as networks with industry, the management sector and national and international science communities. KNAPK regularly participations in international fora on fisheries issues, prepares reports on the hunting and fishing sector, sells select fishing equipment, offers consultation to fishers and hunters, responds to policy decisions, hosts seminars, and disseminates relevant information, from weather and safety measures to adjustments to fish prices and regulations. A well-respected organization both nationally and internationally, Kalaallit Nunaanni Aalisartut Piniartullu Kattuffiat’s mission is to ensure the sustainable continuation of hunting and fishing livelihoods in Greenland.

Legal frameworkRegional and international legal frameworkGreenland has a select number of bilateral agreements that relate to fisheries with neighboring countries. The European Union Partnership Agreement is a fisheries agreement in which the EU provides ca. EUR 17,847,000 for the right to fish in limited amounts within the EEZ of Greenland. In addition, Greenland has several joint agreements with Iceland, Norway, Russia and the Faroe Islands to exchange quotas. For example, Norway is granted access to fish cod in Greenland, as well as Greenland halibut and capelin and in exchange Greenland is authorized a quota for cod, saithe and haddock, which are customarily fished in the Barrents Sea. No international fishing agreements exist between neighboring North American countries such as the United States and Canada. However, Canadian vessels are authorized to offload catches in Greenland for export to EU markets by way of Denmark.

Greenland is also a member of the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), the International Committee for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC).

Additional government-affiliated intuitions that are involved in fisheries sector of Greenland include the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources (described above) and the Greenland Fisheries and License Control (GFLK). GFLK is responsible for the regulation, enforcement and surveillance of Greenland’s inshore and offshore fisheries. Its regulations are built upon the Danish system and largely mirrors EU regulatory frameworks and practices, with few exceptions.

The offshore fisheries are managed with a comprehensive human observer program. The human observer program places GFLK employees on large, offshore fishing vessels. The program’s intent is to reduce bycatch, ensure the use of legal and approved gear types and to improve the quality of log book catch data. Catch data provided by offshore fishing fleets is especially vital for the production of biological advice for management purposes. The program has been hugely successful and is one novel highlight of the Greenland’s fisheries regulatory control.Regional and international legal frameworkAdditional offshore enforcement and prevention of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is carried out with the full support of the Navy of Denmark who patrol the waters off of both East and West Greenland. Among other responsibilities, the Navy of Denmark ensure the sovereignty of Greenland and protect its living marine resources from IUU fishing activity. In the inshore regions of West Greenland, GFLK operates small patrol vessels that monitor inshore fishing activity, from dinghy and small-scale fishing to larger inshore vessels.

Under the European Union, of which the Kingdom of Denmark is a part, Greenland is in compliance with and enforces the United Nations Port Sate Measures Agreement. It complies with the PSM as part of its obligations under the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) and the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO). As of 2016, Greenland Fisheries and License Control is in the process of implementing new control regulations, of which the Port State Measures will be a part. In addition, under the Kingdom of Denmark, Greenland is one of the parties to the Fish Stocks Agreement, which it ratified in 2003.

Infringements or violations of any fisheries law or measure are punishable under the law of Greenland. The prosecutor of Greenland is responsible for assessing the infringement and following the catalog of fines. Infringements include, for example, fishing without a license, fishing over the allowed quota, or the utilization of illegal or unapproved gear. Although fishing without a license or over the quota are less common, mesh size discrepancies can lead to infractions. While the cases are few and far between and the fine comparatively small, the use of smaller mesh will lead to the confiscation of the gear in question and/or the value of the fishing gear. The illegal catch is also confiscated, landed and processed, the profit of which is transferred to the treasury of Greenland. Greenland Fisheries and License Control indicate that infractions among national fleets are exceptionally rare, whereas mesh size infringements have occurred among international fishing fleets over the last decade. Improper gear use in the waters of Greenland is further limited by virtue of local net makers knowing the regulations as well as the environmental factors that can lead to mesh shrinkage over time.

Annexes

Figure 1: 3 Nautical Mile Limit for Inshore and Small-Scale Fishing Activity and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Greenland

Figure 2: Map of the five submissions to United Nations

References

Berthelsen T (2014) Coastal Fisheries in Greenland. Nuuk, Available from: http://www.coastalfisheries.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Coastal-fishing-in-Greenland.pdf.
Blicher ME (2010) Structure and dynamics of marine macrozoobenthos in Greenland – and the link to environmental drivers. Copenhagen: Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.
Commission E (2016) Greenland Fisheries Partnership Agreement. Available from: http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/international/agreements/greenland/index_en.htm# (accessed 1 April 2016).
FAO (2004) FACP Greenland. Fishery Country Profile, Rome, Available from: ftp://ftp.fao.org/FI/DOCUMENT/fcp/en/FI_CP_BO.pdf\nftp://ftp.fao.org/FI/DOCUMENT/fcp/es/FI_CP_VE.pdf.
Greenland G of (2015) Kruse : Indfør TAC for hellefisk i Nuuk-fjordene.
Greenland P of (2014) Coalition Agreement 2014-2018.
Greenland S (2015) Greenland in Figures 2015. Nuuk, Available from: stat.gl.
Greenland S (2014) Hunting and Fisheries.
Kristín Von Kistowski, Stefan Flothmann, Gunnar Album E and Dolan, Adriana Fabra, Elsa Lee, Marta Marrero FM (2010) Port state Performance : Putting Illegal , Unreported and Unregulated fishing on the radar Report August 2010. 2010 The Pew Charitable Trusts., 40, Available from: www.portstateperformance.org.
Mackenzie BR, Payne MR, Boje J, et al. (2014) A cascade of warming impacts brings bluefin tuna to Greenland waters. Global Change Biology, 20(8), 2484–2491.
Nations U (2010) Resumed Review Conference on the Agreement Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish: Parties to the Fish Stocks Agreement: 77.
Poppel B and Kruse J (2009) The importance of a mixed cash- and harvest herding based economy to living in the Arctic: an analysis on the Survey of Living Conditions in the Arctic ( SLiCA ). Quality of Life and the Millennium Challenge, 27–42.
Poppel B, Kruse J, Abryutima L, et al. (2011) SLiCA: Arctic Living Conditions Executive Summary.
Royal Greenland A/S. (2015) Royal Greenland Annual Report.
Siegstad H (2016) The Halibut in Ilulissat, Uummannaq and Upernavik.
Snyder H (2016) Interview with Mads Nedergaard. Nuuk, Greenland.
Snyder H (2016) Interview with Esben Ehlers. Nuuk.
Snyder H, Jacobsen RB and Delaney AE (2016) A Perturbation in Greenland’s Small-Scale Fisheries: Implementing the UN Small Scale Fisheries Guidelines. In: Unpacking the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries: From Rhetoric to Action.
Snyder H and Poppel B (2016) Subsistence the Arctic. In: ECONOR III: Economies of the North.Thinghuus M (2015) Royal Greenland invests in Quin Sea Fisheries of Canada. Nuuk.

Additional information

Meetings & News archive

 

 
Powered by FIGIS