The end of the year was a difficult one for many hunters and fishermen in northern Greenland. Proof of this is the 300 applications for emergency financial assistance that have been submitted since December 18. Climate change has made hunting and fishing impossible. To help them, the government has released one million danish kroner.
This winter has been particularly hard on many households, whose income from hunting animals has drastically decreased. The dark polar night makes navigation impossible, and the absence of winter sea ice makes dog sledding dangerous.
Unable to hunt since early November, many Greenlanders in the Qaanaaq region in the north of the island have had to rely on financial assistance from elders’ retirement money and subsidy recipients to feed their families and pay their bills. A crisis situation hitherto barely heard of, as winter hunting generally provides a source of income and sustenance for the inhabitants of the most remote communities.
But the lack of winter sea ice literally put the island’s northern residents in a situation where they feared they would no longer be able to feed their children. Aviâja Egede Lynge, National Spokesperson for Children at the MIO, the national children’s rights center, sounded the alarm on December 7 in the columns of the Greenlandic newspaper Sermitsiaq that “[…] violent climate change affects society as a whole, but it is especially hunting families with children who pay the highest price.”
Faced with this situation, hunters and fishermen approached the Greenlandic government, Naalakkersuisut, and the municipality of Avannaata, which administers the Qaanaaq region. Without much success. According to information relayed by Sermitsiaq, the municipality asked hunters to register as jobseekers in order to obtain a subvention, which in the end never arrived despite the registrations.
Finally, the government released emergency financial aid via the main account 51.01.04. Aimed at professional fishermen, hunters and farmers, this account is a rehabilitation aid. It provides a subsidy to help maintain financial activity in the event of a hard time (illness, professional difficulties or climatic difficulties). With an annual budget of 3 million danish kroner (around €400,000), the fund still contained one million unspent kroner at the end of last year. After approval by the finance committee, the government released the million to help hunters and fishermen in the north.
On December 18, the government published on the website of the Department of Fisheries an application form to apply for emergency aid in the event of a disaster linked to climate change.
And the requests were not long in coming. In just two weeks, more than 300 requests for help were received. An influx that reflects an increasingly difficult situation for fishermen and hunters.
Applications are currently being processed, and it is not known when the first subventions will be paid and what will be the allocated amount. However, Naalakkersuisut has already said it is prepared to ask parliament for additional funding if the million kroner prove insufficient.
Mirjana Binggeli, PolarJournal
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