The Fishermen´s Perspective in Nuuk, Greenland

by Nandita Rajan, Laura Matkala, Lauriane Quéléver, Lise-Lotte Sørensen & Pelle Tejsner

What does climate change mean to a fisherman in the Arctic region?

As part of a social science project, our group was assigned the challenging but interesting task of interviewing the local fishermen in order to understand their views on the current environmental situation that might have an impact on their daily lives.


A multidisciplinary approach

As another approach to our scientific research, we were also introduced to research methods in social science. Belonging to the field of natural science, we were not familiar with interview methods before this course.

Adaptation in the Arctic

Studies have shown some contrasting results related to the adaptability of the popullation toward climate change.Ford et al. (2015) states that Arctic communities are highly vulnerable with the ongoing magnitude of climate change, which implies a limited ability to adapt. On the other hand, social science assessments, mentionned in this same paper, have demonstrated that the communities have a significant adaptive capacity to unpredictable climate. The point is that indigenous populations perceive changes in climate more as a consequence of natural variability.


We hoped to learn from this experiment if the environmental changes asscociated with the 1.5°C warming (Ford et al., 2015) in Greenland have resulted in a change of the people´s lifestyle. Another question was to find out if these changes are seen as a challenges or opened doors to new opportunities (e.g. for the fishing industry).

Resource use systems, such as fishing, will provide indirect markers to changes in the environment and climate. For example a warmer period could lead to higher levels of nutrient cycling. This in turn can cause an increase in productivity in oceans , thus there will be more food available for fish. Additionally, it could result in the opening of new routes for fishing.

5th July 2016, Tuesday

As with every first experiment, we were not sure what to expect. We assumed it would be easy to find fishermen to interview in a town where fishing is one of the main occupations, but this was not the case. Nevertheless in Greenland, everyone as a word to say about fishing since the population is dependent on the natural ressources for living. Thus, we had a broad panel of informant:

  1. A young fish seller in the fishmarket
  2. An older fish seller on the street
  3. A former fisherman
  4. A employee from fishing company
  5. A fisheries controller

We did not raise the words climate change directly no avoid influencing our interviewees. However we wanted to listen their opinion about the current situation on fishieries, and if they experienced any kind of changes related to it.  Hence, our group decided to frame the interviews with the following core questions:

  • Why did you become a fisherman and for how long have you been fishing?
  • What is different/Is something different now compared to when you started?
  • What do you think about the future?

Conflicting view about regulation

A couple of informants spoke mainly about the regulations, policies and hygeine certifications that are now required by authorities regarding the fishing business. One was in favour of this whereas for another, it comes as a disruption to their traditional fishing ways. These contrasting views clearly show a difference the percepition of the fisheries and the society in Greenland.


Another point has been highlighted by the worker in the Fish industry where during the last five years the competion between the main companies is gradually increasing. This could also be linked with the quotas limitation fixed by the authorithies. As an additional concern, the small fishemen group tends to desapear toward the bigger corporation.

Fishing sector is doing well

If some species have suffered, others have thrived and the fishing industry has taken advantage of that. Presently, Shrimp shrimp and halibut are the main stocks in the market. Cod populations declined for over 30 years but the species is catching up again. With new technological advances, species like mackerel have entered the market.

Climate change a minor concern

In the wake of globalization, socio-cultural and economic issues, the problem of climate change seems to be overshadowed. After listening at what the locals had to say about their own concerns on the fisheries and oceans topic, we had the impression that the climate change is not the bigger concern in the population life. In Greenland, the locals are used to deal with the nature and its unpredictable change. Thus they see climate change as a natural variation of their environment where they will adapt in any case and probably faster than in the other parts of the world.

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