The population in East Greenland benefited only briefly from the beluga whale quota that was reintroduced this year. The Greenlandic government had to impose a temporary export ban on beluga whale products in early March – for all of Greenland.
The reason for the export ban on beluga meat is that beluga whales in East Greenland may belong to an endangered population in Svalbard. Thus, hunting them is considered unsustainable and their products may no longer be exported. This applies to sending beluga whale products to family, friends and hospital patients in Denmark as well as to tourists who want to take beluga whale products with them.
However, hunting of belugas is still permitted and residents of East Greenland are allowed to import belugas into Denmark for their own supply. The sale of beluga whale products within Greenland also remains permitted.
Only at the end of last year, a technical quota of 30 beluga whales per year had been decided for East Greenland to ensure the meat supply for the population.
The Government of Greenland, Naalakkersuisut, deeply regrets having to impose the export ban, especially because it affects the entire country. “For Naalakkersuisut it is very unfortunate that a temporary export ban on beluga whale products from Greenland is being introduced. It is contrary to the political will of the Greenlandic government,” a press release states.
Beluga whales are covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which means that the sale and export of beluga whale products is regulated internationally. “Beluga whale products may only be exported and imported if it can be proven that the catch comes from sustainably managed stocks,” Naalakkersuisut said. “It cannot be ruled out that the technical quota for catching beluga whales in East Greenland will have a negative impact on the overall beluga whale population.”
According to the press release, previous genetic studies of individual belugas from East Greenland showed that they belong to the small and endangered Svalbard population. It is not yet known which population the newly captured belugas belong to. According to the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO), the catch of belugas from the Svalbard stock is unsustainable, and therefore it cannot be ruled out that exports will have a negative impact on this population.
The export ban had to be imposed for the whole of Greenland, as it is currently not possible to distinguish between products from East Greenland and West Greenland. However, the Greenlandic government is currently considering whether there are options to allow the export of beluga whale products from the sustainably exploited stocks in West Greenland again.
Julia Hager, PolarJournal
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