Is climate change causing the increasing narwhal (Monodon monoceros) catches in Smith Sound, Greenland?


Martin Reinhardt Nielsen, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Bülowsvej 17, DK-1870 Frederiksberg C, Denmark. E-mail:


This paper evaluates recent changes in narwhal (Monodon monoceros) catches in Siorapaluk, the northernmost community in Greenland, in consideration of the effects of changing climate and uncertainty of stock delineation. The catch statistics show a significant increase in narwhal catches by hunters in Siorapaluk after 2002, which does not appear to be a result of increased effort. Hunters attribute the increase to changed sea-ice conditions providing access by boat to Smith Sound as early as June and July. This indicates that climate change is likely to have a considerable impact on narwhal hunting in northern Greenland. Traditional ecological knowledge and scientific surveys suggest that narwhal in Smith Sound constitute an independent stock. The absence of scientific recommendations for this stock has been seen as an opportunity to increase quotas in West Greenland. Scientific management recommendations are urgently needed to allow the authorities to assign sustainable quotas for this stock. The development of collaborative management agreements and locally based monitoring are recommended to ensure local acceptance of regulations, and to allow rapid responses to climate change.