Greenland Blasted for Salmon Decision


Created on Friday, 14 June 2013 09:08

AT last week's NASCO meeting in Ireland, the authorities from Greenland reported landings at fish factories with a quota of 35 tonnes. This is the first time that such landings have been authorised under the aegis of the subsistence fishery at West Greenland.

In response to questions at the NASCO meeting the Greenland representatives explained that, unlike other components of Greenland's fishery, landed salmon is used at home, sold in local open-air markets, or provided to hospitals and other institutions in its fresh form. Factory landed product is processed, frozen and sold to supermarkets and grocery stores for year-round sale. Prior to the advent of the factory landings quota, wild Atlantic salmon was available only as fresh product during the three months of the fishing season (August to October). This change in management approach is expected to reduce product waste from spoilage and facilitate competition between domestically produce salmon with imported salmon sold in grocery stores in Greenland. In addition, factory reporting is more robust than reporting from other components of the fishery and may reduce the level of overall unreported catchers. Total reported landings for the 2012 fishery at West Greenland was 44 t. Of this, 19 t was harvested for private consumption, sale to open-air markets etc and 15 t was harvested against the allocated 35 tonne factory landings quota.

Several commission members expressed concern about Greenland's decision to establish a 35t factory landings quota, noting that the commercial quota of this type, that included packing and freezing capabilities, facilitated internal market expansion. This, combined with the lack of limitations on the fresh fish component of the fishery, created the potential for substantial increases in capacity, effort, and catches. It was suggested that catches could reach upwards of 65 t if the entire 35 t factory landings quota were taken, together with the 10 t reported catch level and the more traditional component of the local use fishery, estimated to be around 20 t. It was further noted that the fish currently being imported from Norway for use in Greenland are of farmed origin and the factory landings could result in some of these farm produced imports being replaced by wild caught salmon.

A lively and very intense debate ensued during the course of the meetings of the Greenland Commission. It was proposed that an inter-sessional meeting of the West Greenland Commission be convened to begin work on the development of a new regulatory measure and that reporting and monitoring of Greenland's fishery be much improved. The NASCO parties supported tentatively scheduling such a meeting and noted that if it were needed, it should occur after the data became available for the 2013 West Greenland fishery. The representative of Denmark in respect of Greenland and the Faroe Islands stressed strongly that Greenland is entitled to a fair share of the resource and that some other jurisdictions are not doing as much as Greenland to conserve Atlantic salmon stocks. She indicated clearly that the new Government in Greenland may well take a much more strident line in relation to the management of the salmon fishery in Greenlandic waters. Through the NGO representation KW was permitted to make some points during the course of this debate. He stressed that accurate statistics on the fishery are critical for effective science and management. He further urged the NASCO parties to consider enhancement of the monitoring and data collection programmes to include expanding the use of observers in a way that ensures a stratified approach to data collection and which would provide a linkage to genetic analyses. KW argued that such actions could help further identify where salmon from weaker stocks most likely occur along the Greenland coast, including as a by catch in other fisheries, so that management actions can be more accurately targeted to protect the most vulnerable salmon populations.

Canada's Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Keith Ashfield, has issued a statement expressing his concern over Greenland's unilateral decision.

Speaking on June 12, he said: "Fisheries and Oceans Canada is very disappointed with reports that Greenland has changed its domestic policy on wild Atlantic salmon harvests, which could potentially exceed the internationally accepted limit by 35 tonnes.

"The purpose of international organizations like the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) is to encourage cooperation, thereby ensuring fisheries sustainability. Greenland's actions go against these objectives and the Government of Canada urges it to adhere to internationally acceptable levels.

"Canada will continue to work closely with Greenland and other members of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization to identify best practices and ensure that all nations respect their obligations towards our common objective of ensuring sustainable fisheries."