Greenland launches campaign against over-hunting

Reports of widespread bird and animal slaughter embarrass Greenland’s government


Faced with a growing outcry over its hunting practices and policies, the Greenland home rule government has decided to launch a public information campaign to promote the sustainable hunting practices.

Some critics are suggesting that Denmark penalize the Home Rule government by cutting its budget, urging tourists to stay away from Greenland and telling consumers to boycott Greenlandic shrimp.

Greenland’s premier, Jonathan Motzfeldt, told Denmark’s leading newspaper, Jyllandsposten, that Greenland has serious problems with over-harvesting of its birds and marine mammals.

He admitted Greenlanders have squandered their international credibility and he vowed to improve their reputation.

In other interviews with Greenlandic media, Motzfeldt promised tighter regulations on hunting, including quotas for certain species.

Greenland’s record on wildlife management has come under fire since journalist Kjeld Hansen’s book, Goodbye to Greenland’s nature, came out in English last January.

Newsweek featured an interview with Hansen called, “Killer Inuit,” while BBC’s Wildlife Magazine included an article called “Grimland — how government subsidies and ‘sustainable’ hunting are causing a wildlife holocaust.”

The recent catch of 40 killer whales in Disko Bay sparked an additional wave of criticism.

Hunting killer whales is allowed in Greenland, but the recent hunt resulted in a stream of e-mails to Motzfeldt’s office protesting the “slaughter of killer whales.”

The Home Rule government has also received hundreds of messages protesting the over-harvesting of birds.

Hunters there kill thousands of auks during breeding season, which they say is a traditional Inuit cultural practice.

Overall, Greenland’s newspapers have reacted positively to the decision to launch a public campaign — but say this is just part of the answer.

“Without the backing up from citizens and users — fishermen, hunters and recreational hunters — it won’t work,” said an editorial in the Greenlandic newspaper Atuagagdliutit.

Support from Greenland’s hunters and fishermen’s association for stricter wildlife management legislation has been weak. Its members said they wouldn’t follow a new law to extend a hunting ban on endangered auks and eider ducks by one month.

“The cabinet tried to make a departmental order on birds- to show a willingness on sustainable management,” said the newspaper Sermitsiaq. “But KNAPK — the Hunters and Fishermen’s Association — shot it down.”

ICC president Aqqaluk Lynge also said he opposes measures aimed at controlling hunting in Greenland.

But Sermitsiaq warned that Greenland’s economy could suffer if the government doesn’t control hunting.

“The situation today unfortunately shows that the Home Rule Government’s management of nature has not been good enough,” the newspaper said. “Greenland risks losing income from tourism and exports if management of nature is not brought up to date.”

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