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From Facebook to scientific article Published 26.03.2020

A scientific article on the humpback salmon, or pink salmon, in Greenland has just been published by scientists at Greenland Institute of Natural Resources. The results had not been possible without Facebook

In August 2019, Greenland Institute of Natural Resources was contacted by Kunuk Abelsen, a fisher from Tasiilaq, who believed that his catch of humpback salmon could be of some interest for the biologists.

– Based on the communication with the fisher from Tasiilaq, we decided to make an ‘missing fish advertisement’ for humpback salmon on Facebook, as we believed that there might be more people out there catching humpback salmon, says biologists Julius Nielsen, who coordinated the work.

Humpback salmon has previously been observed in Greenland, the first observation dating back as far as 1969, just as the Institute have been receiving recent reports of catches of humpback salmon.

Reports have been made of at least two females with ripe eggs and three males with freely oozing milt – in Nuuk, Uummannaq and Qaqortoq areas from mid-August to mid-September. Photo: Jens Sikemsen.

– We have received observations in both 2017 and 2018, but we did not further inquire about catches of humpback salmon on Facebook or via other media. Therefore, we are not able to say whether there are more humpback salmon in 2019 compared to previous years, only that we have received more reports. However, it is probable that there actually are more humpback salmon in Greenland in 2019 than before. We just are not able to evaluate it with our current data, Julius Nielsen explains.

Through the Facebook page of Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, a total of 84 reports of humpback salmon were received from different places in Greenland, from Upernavik to Qaqortoq and Tasiilaq. 76 of these were from 2019 and eight were from 2013 to 2018. A single humpback salmon was from the head of the Nuuk Fjord near the Kapisillit River, which is the only known river in Greenland where Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) spawns. The salmon in Kapisillit is listed as “endangered” on Greenland’s Red List.

The light-blue points show where the humpback salmon has been caught. The red point shows the Kapisillit catch point. Source: Nielsen J, Rosing-Asvid A, Meire L, Nygaard R. Widespread occurrence of pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) throughout Greenland coastal waters. J Fish Biol. 2020;1–3.

The humpback salmon is considered a potentially harmful species in Northern Europe, and its distribution is expected to increase in the future. Scientists from Greenland Institute of Natural Resources estimate the presence of the humpback salmon in Greenland to be a potential new threat to the salmon in Kapissillit.

Julius Nielsen is planning to carry out a similar search for humpback salmon on Facebook in the coming seasons, as it is a good and effective way of collecting data quickly.

– We would never have been able to collect this kind of data, showing that the humpback salmon is widespread in Greenland, in any other way. It had been too time-consuming and therefore not possible, Julius Nielsen says about the case, involving many citizens in the country.

It was this photo, sent from Tasiilaq, that started the search for more observations in Greenland. Photo: Kunuk Abelsen.


For further information, please contact Julius Nielsen. Email:  juni@natur.gl

Read the scientific article here.

Read more about Atlantic Salmon here.

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