Much at stake in Greenland halibut overfishing
"It is incomprehensible and highly worrying that the Minister of Fisheries denies overfishing of Greenland halibut, and is unwilling to lower the quota or do away with quota-free areas. To continue taking that risk when we've already lost so much is irresponsible", says Kaare Winther Hansen, biologist and project coordinator for WWF's office in Greenland.
Biologists have sounded the alarm in recent years over the declining halibut catch in Disko Bay, a biologically rich area off the western coast of Greenland. Greenland's largest fishing organization and the fishing industry are now voicing their concern.
Halibut is the second-most fished species in Greenland, where fishing is vital to the economy.
For several years, Greenland halibut quotas have been significantly higher than biologists' recommendations. In addition, quota-free zones were introduced in 2014, adding over 4,600 tons of halibut caught in the past year alone.
MSC label in dangerBut there is even more at stake in Greenland. This year, Greenland's offshore halibut fishery was the first of its type in the world to achieve the coveted MSC label, a mark of sustainability for fish sold around the world. However, the label was conditional on the institution of sustainable quotas for the entire fishery within three years.
"Continuing the current policy gambles not just with peoples' livelihoods, but with the international seal of approval that Greenland has worked so hard to achieve", says Winther Hansen.
"Greenland halibut in Disko Bay could quite easily be fished to the point where it's no longer commercially viable. That would result in an economic disaster, and many Greenlandic families will suffer. That kind of damage will take years to repair."