Human Ecology

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 187–203 | Cite as

Quotas on Narwhal (Monodon monoceros) Hunting in East Greenland: Trends in Narwhal Killed per Hunter and Potential Impacts of Regulations on Inuit Communities

  • Martin Reinhardt Nielsen
  • Henrik Meilby


This study evaluates the introduction of quotas on narwhal hunting in East Greenland with respect to effects on Inuit culture and based on trends in narwhal killed per hunter and assessment of migration patterns. Cultural aspects were assessed through group discussions and comparison between East and Northwest Greenland. Trends in narwhal killed/hunter were modeled from catch statistics using information on number of hunters and climate and ice cover data for the period 1993–2004. Results indicate negative impacts of quotas on Inuit culture; did not detect negative trends in narwhal killed/hunter; and suggest south-west-bound migration, implying potential immigration from non-hunted populations that was not considered in quota setting. The implementation of quotas without local consultations and legal basis in the relevant executive order is therefore in our opinion inappropriate. Conservation and sustainable use of narwhal stocks may be more likely to succeed if local communities are involved through co-management agreements.


Small whale hunting Hunting quotas Traditional culture Ice cover trends Co-management 



The authors would like to thank the people of East and Northwest Greenland for their hospitality and the hunter’s organizations and local administration in Ittoqqortoormiit and Ammassalik municipalities for providing information for this study. Thanks to the Hunting Division of the Directorate for Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture for providing access to the Piniarneq catch statistics and to Frank Sejersen, Elmer Topp-Jørgensen, Fernando Ugarte, Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen, Kristine Laidre and Natasja Kingod for useful information and comments on earlier drafts. This study was carried out with funding from the Centre for Macro Ecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen and the Danish National Research Foundation.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Forest and Landscape, Faculty of Life SciencesUniversity of CopenhagenFrederiksberg C.Denmark

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