Administration of Catching and Hunting

Catching and hunting is administered by a system of quotas and catching licences. The quotas regulate the number of animals available for catching and hunting. The catching licences regulate the access to catching and hunting. The catching of blue whales, sei whales, humpback whales, and sperm whales is prohibited.


Via its membership of the International Whaling Commission, IWC, Greenland is allocated quotas of fin whales and minke whales. The allocation follows the principle of culturally dependent whaling. The quotas are valid for a five year period. From 2008, Greenland has been allocated two bowhead whales per year.


The Ministry for Fisheries, Hunting, and Agriculture announces each year how many whales can be caught in each municipality. The quota is submitted to the Union of Coastal Fishermen and Hunters in Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaani Aalisartut Piniartullu Kattuffiat, KNAPK) and the Association of Municipalities (Kalaallit Nunaanni Kommuneqarfiit Kattuffiat, KANUKOKA) before being made official.


As concerns narwhals, belugas, walruses, and polar bears, the government each year sets a quota. The setting is made in accordance with international treaties and biological advice. The quota is submitted to the council for catching, having among others representatives from KNAPK, KANUKOKA, and the association of hunting sportsmen and anglers (Tapertaralugu Piniartartut Aalisartartut Katuffiat, TPAK). The total quota is then distributed among the municipalities.


The quota for reindeer and musk oxen is set according to similar principles and administered by the Environment and Nature Agency which is under the Department of Infrastructure and Environment.


Catching and hunting for birds are not regulated by quotas. As concerns thick-billed murre, common murre, eider, and king eider, a maximum number of birds bagged per day of catching is used.


Hunters have the right to kill 30 birds per day of catching whereas sportsmen have the right to bring down five birds per day.


The catching of other birds and of seals, porpoises, bottlenose whales, Atlantic white-sided dolphin, white-beaked dolphin, pilot whales and killer whales is not covered by quotas.


As can be seen in Table 10, the quota for hunting for reindeer and musk oxen has been open for a number of years. This is due to the fact that the stocks have become so large that they are in danger of collapsing due to overgrazing. In other parts of the country, quotas of the local stocks have been set.


The quotas for narwhals and belugas were introduced in 2004. The quota for narwhals was set at 391 animals and the quota for belugas at 262 animals in the period for 2008-2009, see Table 10.


A catching licence is necessary for catching quota species as well as other species. Two types of licence are used, one for hunters and one for sportsmen. In order to obtain a sportsman licence, registration at the national registration office is necessary. In order to obtain a hunter licence, at least 50 per cent of the gross income must be made by catching, hunting, and fishing.


Figure 1

Persons with Catching Licences

Source: The Department for Fishing, Catching, and Agriculture


As is shown in Figure 1 and Table 11, the number of hunters has been stable for the past ten years. In 2008, 2.388 persons took out a hunter licence. The number of sportsmen was the highest in 2002 where 9.686 persons held this type of licence. Since then, the number of sportsmen has declined and in 2008, 6.539 persons had this type of licence. The decline is primarily due to quota-free reindeer hunt in many parts of the country in recent years.


Catching and hunting for quota mammals require a licence. Licences for minke whales, fin whales, walruses, and polar bears can only be obtained by hunters.


Licences for narwhals, belugas, reindeer, and musk oxen can in principle be obtained by anyone with a catching licence. The licences are issued by the municipalities which will also settle the distribution of licences for sportsmen and for hunters.


It is the responsibility of the police that the regulations concerning catching and hunting are observed. Furthermore, keepers operate in some places where their job is to supervise catching, hunting, and fishing for salmon and trout.



Read more about IWC at


Read more about legislation, hunting seasons etc. at