Information on fishing in Greenlandic waters comes primarily from logbooks. Until 1996, there was only a requirement to keep logs in ocean fishing but over the past decade, mandatory logging has been expanded. In 1996, it was introduced in coastal shrimp fishing and in 2002 in coastal fishing for crabs. In the autumn of 2006, a logbook requirement was introduced for vessels over 9,4 m. Foreign vessels have always been subject to the logbook requirement. In fisheries not subject to the logbook requirement, information from seafood trading posts is used.


Figure 1

The Development of Greenlandic and Foreign Fishing in Greenlandic Waters

Note: The figures for 2007 and 2008 are provisional.
Notes: 1) Greenlandic catches in Greenlandic waters and at Iceland and the Faroe Islands, in international waters and at Flemish Cap, Norway, and Russia.
Source: Statistics Greenland


There is a large number of foreign fishermen off Greenland. Fishing for capelin has been most important in terms of volume although no fishing has taken place since 2005. Capelin fishing varies as shown in Table 5. This is primarily due to the hiking of the capelin in the Northeast Atlantic, in and out of Greenlandic waters.


Figure 2

Developments in Greenlandic Fishing for Selected Species

Note: The figures for 2007 and 2008 are provisional. 

Notes: 1) Greenlandic catches in Greenlandic waters and at Flemish Cap, Norway, and Russia.

Source: Statistics Greenland


The total Greenlandic fishing has increased by 50 per cent over the past 10 years. The increase was primarily due to an increase in the yield from fishing for shrimp, see Figure 2.


Shrimp is the most important species in Greenlandic fishing. In the early 1970's, the Greenlandic shrimp fishing was relatively constant with an annual catch of 8.000-10.000 tonnes. As from 1975, sea-fishing began and since then the catch of shrimp has increased steadily.


The total fishing for cod off Greenland amounted in the 1950's and 1960's to between 300.000 and 400.000 tonnes per year. The level dropped drastically in the early 1970's as a result of overfishing and a colder climate. Since then, catches have remained at a relatively low level except for a brief period in the late 1980's. In 2008, 19.937 tonnes of cod were caught (total catch minus cod caught in northern Norway), see Figure 2.


After the disappearance of the cod from the waters off Greenland, halibut has become the main commercial fish species.


In 1995, fishing for crabs in the coastal areas of Disko Bay and near Sisimiut began. Since then, the crab fishing has expanded to the area from Cape Farewell in the south to Upernavik in the north. In 1999, off-shore crab fishing concentrated at Holsteinsborg Dyb and in the area around Nuuk and Paamiut began.


Fishing for crabs peaked in 2001 when 14.247 tons were caught. Since then, catches have declined and in 2008 there 2.169 tonnes were caught. The sharp drop is due to a collapse in fish populations due to overfishing.


Figure 3

Map of Sea Territory of Greenland (No Precise Boundaries)


Figure 4

Greenlandic Catches of Principal Species in 2007 by NAFO and ICES Areas


Note: The figures are provisional.

Source: Fishing Licence Control of Greenland (GFLK) and Statistics Greenland


As shown in Figure 4, the bulk of Greenlandic fishing takes places off West Greenland, NAFO 1A-F, see Figure 4. NAFO 3L and 3M are areas in international waters at Flemish Cap off Newfoundland.