Fishing is of great importance to the Greenlandic society
In Greenland, the fishery is divided into offshore and inshore fishery which are two very different fisheries.
Large vessels dominate the offshore fishery as they can stay at sea for longer periods until their cargo holds are full and they must unload. A trip can last for several weeks.
Inshore fishing typically consists of smaller dinghies and boats that fish relatively close to the shore no further than 3 nautical miles from the coast.
In Greenland, more than 4,300 people are directly employed in the fishing industry or the fishing-related industry and trade (stat.gl). This corresponds to around 15% of total employment in the country. At the same time, fish and shellfish are the largest export commodity in Greenland.
In 2022, Royal Greenland was open for landing of catches in 37 factories of different capacity along the west coast of Greenland. It is of great importance, especially for smaller communities, that it is possible to land the catches, as fishing is most often the only occupation of the settlement.
Inshore fishing is dominated by many independent fishermen who fish most of or the entire year. In 2022, a total of 1,760 fishermen landed their catches to Royal Greenland, which means that approximately 40% of those employed in the fishing industry are fishing for Royal Greenland's factories.
Number of fishermen landing their catches to Royal Greenland
As shown on the chart, the number of fishermen has increased significantly since 2010, where around 550 fishermen landed their catch to Royal Greenland.
The reason for the large increase in 2016 was mainly because it became possible for more fishermen to become independent and apply for their own license for Greenland halibut fishing. In 2016, 27% more licenses were granted compared to 2015 in the three northern administrative areas, Disko Bay, Upernavik and Uummannaq, while the number of boats remained the same. The same thing happened in 2019, but to a lesser extent.
For the past two years, the Greenlandic government has closed the issuance of new licences, which has meant that no new fishermen have joined the fishery. This regulation is part of the responsible management of the fishery resource, as the pressure on the natural resources must not increase. The volume of landings has remained at the same level during the period, despite the fact that there have been slightly fewer fishermen.
Dinghies in fishing
A dinghy with a large engine is an important tool for the independent fisherman. Many fishermen have switched from being on board traditional cutters to buying their own dinghy. A dinghy is flexible, the engine easier to replace or repair than on a cutter and easy to handle for 1-2 people. If you fish for Greenland turbot, it is possible to handle the gear for one man alone.