Catch of certain sea mammals assessed sustainable

Contrary to last year’s NDF- assessment, Non-Detrimental Findings, catch of walrus in Greenland has now been declared sustainable. This status has also been given to the minke whale and the beluga whale from West Greenland for this year. On the other hand, sea mammals such as the polar bear, the narwhale and other small whales (harbour porpoise, pilot whale, white-beaked dolphin and orca) have been given negative declarations of sustainability. This means that Greenland should not export products from these species.

It has not been possible for the biologists at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources to issue positive declarations for the narwhale, as catch of the narwhale in Greenland has surpassed the biological advice for the populations in Melville Bay, Ittoqqortoormiit and Tasiilaq. Other small whales as well as the polar bear did also not receive a positive assessment, since no scientific advice for these species is available.

Since last year, the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources has been implementing the annual NDF-assessments on behalf of CITES. As a CITES scientific authority, the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources manages the assessment of the declarations of sustainability for those sea mammals that are subject to catch restrictions in Greenland. A positive assessment of a catch animal requires that the catch has been documented as sustainable and that export of products from the animal is not harmful to the population.

According to the CITES agreement – which Greenland joined in 1992 – products from many sea mammal species require a positive declaration of sustainability to be exported. The agreement entails responsibilities of nature protection, preservation of biodiversity and sustainable exploitation in accordance with the precautionary principle.

The declarations of sustainability are submitted to Naalakkersuisut, and it is Naalakkersuisut that ultimately decides whether or not to order a halt to exports of the CITES-listed sea mammals.

For further information, please contact:
Senior scientist Lars Witting at the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources by phone +299 361200 or email:

FACTS about the CITES-agreement which Greenland has joined

Under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) animal and plant species have been categorised according to the degree of protection they need. It is prohibited to trade internationally with species under CITES' List I. The species on CITES' List II may be traded if a positive declaration of sustainability (a so-called Non-Detriment Finding) is available. Species under CITES' List III may under certain circumstances only be traded internationally when a positive declaration of sustainability is available.

Seals have not been listed by CITES, and therefore a CITES NDF-approval is not required for export.

  The NDF-assessment for 2017, Non-Detrimental Findings, may be downloaded here.

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