Subsistence Whaling in Greenland
A self-governed territory of Denmark, Greenland is situated between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Oceans. Denmark is a member of the IWC and nationals of both Denmark and Greenland participate at IWC meetings under Denmark’s flag.
Greenland natives hunt minke, bowhead, fin, and humpback whales as well as other marine mammals. One of West Greenland’s hunts involves the use of penthrite grenade harpoons as the primary and secondary killing methods; another West Greenland hunt uses either the grenade or rifle as the primary, and always a rifle as a secondary killing method; the East Greenland hunts use only rifles as primary and secondary killing methods.
The current IWC quotas for West Greenland whale populations for each of the years 2010-2012 are 2 bowhead whales, 16 fin whales, 190 minke whales, and 9 humpback whales. Until 2007 Greenland natives hunted only minke and fin whales. In recent years, despite evidence suggesting problems with the hunts, Denmark - on behalf of Greenland - has approached the IWC, first with requests to also kill bowhead whales and, most recently, humpback whales. Despite opposition from several countries which questioned the justification for more whale products, quotas for both species were passed in 2007 and 2010 respectively, with the humpback quota allowed as an unsavory bargain for fewer fin and minke whales.
The problems associated with the Greenland hunts are numerous and include:
- failure to report times to death to the IWC;
- failure to provide an up-to-date needs statement that fully and quantifiably documents a justification for the nutritional, subsistence and cultural needs of its indigenous people for great whales;
- an increasing commerciality of the hunts, with whale meat being routinely sold in over 100 supermarkets, and in tourist hotels and restaurants throughout Greenland;
- the inclusion of the entire population of Greenland (including non-indigenous people) when calculating per capita need for whale meat;
- excessive wastage;
- the exclusion of small cetacean products that also make up part of the subsistence diet of indigenous Greenlanders; and
- inadequate flensing and processing techniques.