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The New Greenland Government Allows Spring Hunting of Threatened Bird Population - From a Greenland correspondent

The cabinet of the new Greenlandic Home Rule government has just rejected the prolongation of sustainable bird hunting laws on the world`s largest island and, ignoring the advice of their own biologists, have issued a general permit to hunt birds well into the breeding season. The decision means that the declining breeding populations of common eider and guillemot will again be shot on their nests. The cabinet decision effectively negates the 2001 Bird Protection Act enacted by the previous government, which was Greenlands first serious attempt to ensure sustainable exploitation of declining wildlife species resulting from intensive hunting. During a protest campaign organized by BirdLife Denmark in 2002, in support of the new bird protection law, more than 300 emails from all over the world arrived within a few days in Greenlandic government mailboxes. There is no BirdLife International partner organization in Greenland. According to the Institute for Natural Resources in the capital Nuuk, the Common Eider Duck Somateria mollissima in West Greenland has declined by about 80 percent over the last 40 years. The Common Eider is the largest duck in the Northern Hemisphere. It frequents coastal headlands, offshore islands, skerries, and shoals, as far north as open water permits. Eider ducks are gregarious in nature, travelling and feeding in flocks numbering from tens to thousands, and they are one of the many migratory bird species which Greenland and eastern Canada share. Environment Canada says that research by the two countries shows that most eider ducks that breed in the eastern Canadian Arctic go to Greenland to spend the winter. Biologists from Environment Canada, the Greenland Nature Institute and the American Museum of Natural History have now developed a population model that shows current levels of eider hunting in Greenland could be too high to sustain a healthy population balance.Another heavily depleted bird species in Greenland is the Br?nnich`s Guillemot Uria lomvia. A colony in Uummannaq in Northern Greenland declined from 500,000 to a meagre 10,000 breeding birds over the past 60 years. The Br?nnich`s Guillemot also has experienced a massive decline in Iceland, where it is now listed as threatened. According to an official Icelandic government document, the only plausible explanation for the decline is because of hunting pressure in West Greenland.Hunting of breeding birds until May 31 in most of Greenland has been assessed by ornithological experts as highly damaging. After the decision in 2001 to stop bird hunting after February 15, more than 10,000 hunters from across Greenland staged several months of fierce opposition. The hunters account for almost one-fifth of Greenlands total population of 55,000 people. Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, governed by the Home Rule administration. Greenland`s Ministry for Health and Environment acknowledges the decline of eiders and guillemots in an article on its website. Hunting in Greenland target both our own breeding populations, and the birds coming from large part of the Arctic Region,"the ministry states. It is known that the breeding population of thick-billed guillemots has declined for at least 50 years. Overhunting, disturbance from helicopters at the bird cliffs and being caught in gillnets have been and are part of the problem. It is known that the breeding population of common eider has declined for more than 100 years. Overhunting, disturbance and catching in gillnets have been and are part of the problem. But despite this knowledge, the decision of the new government elected in January is now taking its toll on Greenlandic birds. This spring the hunters can enjoy hunting the newly arriving breeders.

4th July 2014