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First the good news

Qualified Plaudits for Greenland…

A new Bird Protection Law for Greenland came into force on 15th of January 2004 when the Greenland premier, Mr. Hans Enoksen, finally signed the new bird protection legislation. This new legislation is the first serious Greenlandic attempt for many years to ensure an ecologically sustainable wildlife harvest. The legislation is a very important step and will be monitored closely by WWF Denmark.

However, the conservation issue has not been finally resolved by the introduction of this new legislation. The hard work has only just begun as the Home Rule authority, wildlife inspectors and police start the sensitive and lengthy process of education and enforcement; informing about, explaining, monitoring and enforcing the new regulations. There are also a number of critical issues that must be addressed if conservation really is to succeed: * The Ramsar Convention, which requires improved protection for 11 internationally important bird areas (IBAs), has not yet entered into force in Greenland. In December 2003 the Greenlandic parliament passed a new nature conservation act following several years of international criticism. One of the reasons for not having implemented earlier the international conventions such as Ramsar was the lack of a national legal framework. The nature conservation act was meant to fill this gap. It is therefore strange that not even the most threatened Ramsar areas are granted improved protection in bird protection legislation that has been approved less than one and a half months later.

* Lead poisoning remains a serious risk to the human and animal populations of Greenland population through exposure to or ingestion of lead shot used for bird hunting. Indeed the ban on the use of lead shot, included in the draft legislation submitted for public hearing in June, 2003 and due to come into effect on 1st of January 2005, has been quietly deleted by the Home Rule government. There has been no advance public explanation for the deletion of this ban before approval of the new bird protection legislation by the premier. * The National Environmental Research Institute of Denmark (NERI) has published several reports on lead poisoning in Greenlandic seabirds. In a recent report (2002) NERI writes: A calculation of the human lead intake from the diet shows that birds killed with lead shot are a significant, probably the most important single source, of lead in the diet of the Greenland population. The highest exposure is to be expected in Southwest Greenland during winter, when most seabirds are killed on their wintering grounds. One single eider meal will result in a mean lead intake almost 6 times higher than FAO/WHO`s value for tolerable lead intake on a daily basis. - NERI Technical Report no. 408, http://www.dmu.dk Lead is transferred to babies with the breast milk and excessive lead intake may cause learning disabilities.

* Professional hunters were permitted to collect and sell eggs from two species of gulls in 2001. This was supposedly to provide the hunters with additional income potential. The Home Rule Government has not determined whether any significant increase in income has taken place that would justify such disturbance of bird colonies in future. * Greenland still needs to introduce a system to improve the skills of the hunters. At present any Greenland resident can obtain a hunting licence without proving any level of knowledge of wildlife, weapon skills or hunting regulations. The only requirement is to payment of 50 Danish crowns (about $7.50) to the municipality. Knowledge of effective weapon range is evidently lacking, and injury of seabirds appears to be a significant problem. A recent report by Greenlandic biologists shows that approximately one third of the Common Eiders found dead from other causes in the Nuuk Fjord had been injured by lead shot.

David Conlin for the Proact Greenland coordinator

Read more on the Proact site at: http://www.proact-campaigns.net/greenland/id35.html with details of the new hunting restrictions will be updated soon.

4th July 2014