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Greenland Halibut in Upernavik: The importance of the stock for the fishing populace Published 14.02.2012

Executive summary: This report presents research undertaken with the belief that a need exists for better understanding of the social and cultural importance of the Greenland Halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides) fishery to Greenlanders. It was decided the research would focus on one of three coastal Greenland Halibut fishery districts: Upernavik. Upernavik was chosen given the critical importance of Greenland halibut for local fishers and area residents.
The best method for presenting a combination of social and fishery data takes the form of a fishery profile.

Additionally, given that the government of Greenland is currently in the midst of proposing changes to the Halibut management structure, the report focuses specifically on potential social impacts of the fishery management plan to coastal fishers. The degree and consequence of any impact is a function of the characteristics of the fishing community. The critical point is the vulnerability of the community to negative repercussions of the management action and the resilience the community has in being able to absorb these repercussions. Upernavik and Greenlandic fisheries communities are known to be remote and have limited economic opportunities for residents. Consequently, it is important to understand the adaptability and vulnerability of the community in order to
successfully anticipate impacts.

Greenland halibut is the most important commercial fish stock for Upernavik residents. In 2010 there were more than 385 fishermen with official licenses for Greenland halibut in Upernavik. There are up to an additional 75 who also fish, however, without paying the license fee. This means that almost half of working age men fish for halibut in the Upernavik district.
Fishing is extremely important in Upernavik for its role in the local, mixed economy. Fishing often provides the cash needed for materials needed for work (hunting and fishing equipment such as bullets, nets, snowmobiles, etc.) and daily living (housing, transport, television, food, etc). Fishing also supports the important local cultural practice of meeting social obligations and reciprocity such as through kødgaver (gifting of meat), a practice which remains both culturally and economically important in the smaller settlements.

Currently, the government of Greenland is proposing changes to the management of Greenland halibut for the coastal fishers, including the closing the fishery to new entrants in 2012. Additional changes include the introduction of ITQs for large boats. With little Profile of Upernavik’s Greenland Halibut coastal fishery discussion of where locals will work and live if they can not earn an income from the fishery, or discussion of how the communities may be impacted by the potential consolidation of quota shares into fewer hands (as is seen in all ITQ fisheries), the report suggests that management follows accepted practices of good governance as it introduces its new Greenland halibut plan. Good governance is participatory and is based upon, among
other points, social equity, responsiveness, and transparency. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society. Since the plan has not yet been implemented, however, there is still time to follow good governance practices for the sustainability of not only the Greenland halibut stock, but also for Greenlandic society.

A study undertaken under the Greenland Climate Research Centre by
Alyne E. Delaney*
Rikke Becker Jakobsen
Aalborg University (AAU)
Kåre Hendriksen
Danish Technological University (DTU-MAN)
Innovative Fisheries Management, IFM
– an Aalborg University Research Centre

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