Hunting - household economic importance
About the research project

The importance of hunting and small-scale fishing in Greenland

Due to global climate change dramatic changes in biodiversity and living conditions are expected in the Arctic. Changes in thickness and cover of the sea ice have already been confirmed. These changes are expected to affect populations of birds, mammals and fish and lead to changes in migration routes, distribution ranges, population sizes and possibly also extinction of particularly vulnerable populations. Some species have furthermore historically been subjected to a hunting pressure that in certain cases and periods has contributed to population decline. In Greenland these aspects, together with international agreements, have led to introduction of quotas on specific species and repeated tightening of hunting regulations.

Most people in smaller settlements along the coast of Greenland still depend partly on hunting and small-scale fishing. Hunting households are likely to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and tightened hunting regulations. Furthermore, the quotas for small-scale fishing have been reduced in favor of larger vessels. Only few studies have examined how climate change affects Arctic communities and evaluated their adaptation strategies, and the majority of the conducted studies are based on qualitative methods. Hence, quantitative assessments of the importance of subsistence hunting and fishing are scarce and, although it is well known that these livelihood activities are important to many households, this side of the economy is not included in national income assessments. Reduced hunting and fishing yields, either as a consequence of climate change, regulation or both, may therefore severely affect the material wealth and general well-being of hunting households without being detected in national income statistics, GDP calculations, living conditions or quality of life studies. Lack of documentation of such changes further implies that these aspects are often not included in political decision-making. 

The project is anchored at Ilisimatusarfik and conducted in partnership with the University of Copenhagen, University of Roskilde and Artek/Danish Technical University.


The objectives of this project are to:

  • To determine to what extent cash and subsistence income derived from individual species contribute to Greenlandic hunting households’ total annual income as well as to the wider Greenlandic society and the national economy
  • Compare reliance on hunting and hunting yield composition over time and between locations to examine to what extent different species substitute each other and how this has been influenced by climatic factors, hunting regulations and trade prices
  • Conduct future scenario analysis and simulations to predict household welfare, quality of life and societal aggregated economic consequences of reduced access to individual species, resulting from effects of climate change or caused by proposed hunting regulations
  • Determine whether particular groups of hunters, such as highly specialized hunters in remote communities, are more exposed to these impacts than others

Through these efforts the project aims to facilitate the design of future hunting regulations in a way that better serves the long-term interests of Greenlandic society as well as the hunting households.