A message to the Government of Greenland was delivered clearly at Greenland Science Week 2023. The second day had a large focus on use of Indigenous Knowledge and co-creation, with many researchers presenting their approach to this.
Danish Meteorological Institute’s Steffen Olsen and Pinngortitaleriffik, Grønlands Naturinstitut (The Greenland Institute of Natural Resources’) Malene Simon Hegelund, who cooperate on Arctic PASSION’s service ‘Community-based monitoring for Arctic marine climate change, noise pollution and impacts on marine living resources’, brought with them two special guests from Qaanaaq: Naduk Kristensen and Olennguaq Kristensen, who had dedicated two weeks of their time to be at this presentation, away from their families and their hunting for Narwhals.
Olennguaq opened the session with a wish for guidelines for research to be developed together with hunters, and with ownership on both sides. For instance, there are existing guidelines for boat traffic on how to behave on the area, yet these are not being followed or respected. Research and other types of vessels come into the area at high speeds and making noise. «The disrespect to local hunters is disturbing» Olennnguaq says.
Boats entering the hunting territory should drive slowly, with engines off, or using a silent approach. This is so that Narwhals will not be frightened away, as they are very sensitive to noise.
Narwhal hunting plays an important part of their culture and livelihoods. Today they hunt from their kayaks, but they have been hunting Narwhals since they were children, being taught by their parents. «We prepare for this hunt for days» Naduk says, and «it can destroy our week’s hunt» when their hunting grounds are disrespected by boats. Naduk recalls how when she was little, she went hunting with her father, and was not allowed to walk on the ice. She learned how to behave on the ice, being quiet on the ice edge, sometimes sitting there and waiting for up to three days for animals to reach the ice edge.
They are surprised that there is so much scientific activity that they are not even aware of, intruding on their traditional hunting grounds.
Control of boats has to be regulated with very clear guidelines, or there needs to be a consensus on activities, at the very least. Malene Simon Hegelund commented, “it’s shocking that there are no regulations in a community relying on hunting for their livelihoods.”
They recommend that there should be a local coordination point for the community who liaise with researchers; that the community receives information on the planned measurements and expected impact; that they receive fair compensation; and that political initiative is taken to put regulations in place.
Their presentation drew comments from the audience, including local politician Kuno Fencker who offered Olennguaq and Naduk to reach out so that the government is aware of the problem and can take action. A Canadian in attendance also drew parallels to researchers in Canada having to pay a fee the the local hunter and trapper’s association to work in a community as inspiration, and the Greenland Research Council reminded everyone to attend a session on co-production the next day.
This video shows only the english discussions, while Greenlandic parts have been described above. Video taken by Sabrina Heerema