Journey to the Upernavik area for new knowledge about the Guillemot

During the first half of February 2018, a team of four women from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources will be traveling around Northwest Greenland to carry out public meetings and interview studies regarding the Brünnich's Guillemot. The journey will take them to Kullorsuaq, Nuussuaq, Tasiusaq and Upernavik.

Besides holding public meetings on the Institute’s work on the Guillemot, biologist and PhD student Aili Lage Labansen will be collecting local knowledge in the Upernavik area in connection with her PhD project. Except for the colonies in the Qaanaaq area, the colonies in the northern Upernavik, Apparsuit and Kippaku are the largest Guillemot colonies in West Greenland. The Kippaku population is stable while the Apparsuit population is in significant decline. And it is precisely the causes why some colonies are in decline while others are not that Aili is studying in her PhD project.

Biologists usually work for a relatively short and intense period of time at each Guillemot colony during breeding season, while locals, who move in the areas for larger periods of the year, acquire another type of knowledge, which also is important for understanding the Guillemot population. Therefore, Aili encourages the citizens in the mentioned settlements and in Upernavik to help her by sharing their knowledge in the interview studies and in connection with the public meetings, which are held in each location.

Causes for decline must be investigated

 ”Most Guillemot colonies in Greenland are in decline, and the few colonies that remain stable are situated in the northern Upernavik area and the Qaanaaq area. Kippaku and Apparsuit are especially interesting in this context, as they are closely situated. The number of birds in the Apparsuit colony has declined relatively fast with several thousand birds, while the colony at Kippaku, just south of Apparsuit, is stable. We are studying different factors that may explain this, but I hope that the local knowledge will help shed light on the reasons for this difference,” says Aili Lage Labansen.

The Brünnich's Guillemot is the most important edible bird in Greenland, and Aili’s PhD project will contribute with new knowledge, which may improve the advice on sustainable exploitation of the Guillemot.

The Guillemot in decline despite substantial tightenings of management

Throughout the last approximately 20-50 years, a number of Greenlandic Brünnich's Guillemot breeding colonies have been in heavy decline, and four colonies have been completely abandoned within the last 20 years. Despite several protection measures, including more than 10 years with a significantly reduced pressure from hunting, it has not been possible to turn around the development. Only the colonies in the Qaanaaq area, along with a few in the Upernavik area, have shown no signs of decline in recent times.


For further information, please contact:

Biologist Aili Lage Labansen on phone +299 361200 or email:

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Photo: GN