Thursday, September 4, 2008

Narwhal massacre provokes outrage in Greenland

04 Sep 2008

The discovery of dozens of massacred narwhals on the east coast of Greenland has widened divisions between hunting and tourism interests.

Narwhal quotas in Greenland continue to exceed sustainable levels recommended by the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO).
Poachers are suspected of killing 48 narwhals off the east coast of Greenland
© Thor Hjarsen /

Narwhals are a small Arctic whale with a single long tusk, sought after by poachers because of its ivory.

A scientific expedition from New Zealand discovered the whale carcasses as they sailed along the coastline about two weeks ago. According to local media 48 animals were killed and poaching is suspected.

"We received a complaint that there may have been a possible violation of the Greenlandic law regarding the protection of narwhals, after the discovery of cadavers in Illoqqortoormiut," said the deputy chief of Greenland police Morten Nielsen.

Greenland’s Hunters and Fishers Organisation, KNAPK, was quick to condemn the apparent slaughter, along with many ordinary people as well as representatives of the tourist industry

People in Greenland, a semi-autonomous Danish territory, are authorized to hunt narwhals "but there are rules that say you can't shoot females and that you have to remove the body" after killing the animal”, Nielsen said.

There were females and calves among the dead, Danish news agency Ritzau reported, adding that only the males' long tusks, some meat and blubber had been removed from the carcasses.

"We're now trying to investigate the incident and figure out what has happened and if the law has been broken," Nielsen said.

Narwhals can grow up to five metres in length and live primarily in the Arctic Ocean. Males have a single long, twisted tusk that protrudes from the upper left side of the jaw and which can grow up to three metres

Some females may also grow tusks, albeit much smaller. The export of narwhal tusks is banned in Greenland, and imports are banned in the European Union, according to Ritzau.

At the International Whaling Commission meeting in Chile in June, Greenland failed in a bid to extend indigenous subsistence hunting quotas to humpback whales, following revelations that the whale hunting had a large commercial component ending up on supermarket shelves.

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