Much at stake in Greenland halibut overfishing | WWF

Much at stake in Greenland halibut overfishing

Posted on 25 August 2017    
Greenland Halibut, Greenland
© Rune Langhoff / WWF
Catches of Greenland halibut in western Greenland have plummeted as a result of several years of overfishing, says WWF-Denmark. However, the Minister responsible for fisheries refuses to lower the allowable catch.
 
"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 danger

But 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."
Greenland Halibut, Greenland
© Rune Langhoff / WWF Enlarge
The Greenland halibut fishery is an important part of the economy around Disko Bay, Greenland.
© Rune Langhoff / WWF Enlarge

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