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If anyone had been in any doubt about Hans Enoksen’s sympathies towards the fishing industry before he became Greenland’s fisheries and hunting minister on October 27, statements he made on the national ‘hunters and fishermen’s day’ a few weeks later removed all uncertainty.
“I will do everything in my power during my time as minister to make it easier to be a hunter or a fisherman,” Mr Enoksen (pictured above), said on November 15 during a celebration hosted by KNAPK, a lobby group for hunters and fishermen.
Mr Enoksen is a former premier and has long been a stauch ally of independent, coastal fishermen. His decision to openly choose sides as cabinet member has been criticised by those who feel that rather than coming out in support of certain occupations. Instead, they say he should be working to ensure that living resources are utilised in a sustainable manner that benefits the whole country.
Mr Enkosen himself brushes off such concerns, aruging that allowing more fishing and hunting is in the country’s best interests.
“A commonly owned resource should be utilised to our benefit,” he told Sermitsiaq, a newspaper published by this website’s parent company.
To accomplish that goal in the fishing industry, Mr Enoksen is working to expand the number of people who are awarded quotas. Doing so is intended to reverse a trend that, in his eyes, has seen too many quotas concentrated in too few hands. This is particularly true in the case of lucrative cod quotas, he argues.
“The result,” he says, “is a decline in the number of people fishing for cod. We hear from young people who want to become fishermen, but there’s no quota for them. And the prawn quoatas have long since been handed out. We need to do something about the situation so that it is easier for local fishermen to get a share of the catch,” Mr Enoksen says.
With more boats on the water looking to fish in Greenland’s coastal waters in recent years, it will not be enough for Mr Enoksen to spread the existing quotas more thinly. If they are all to make a reasonable living, he will need to increase the overall amount of fish that may be caught.
Doing so would go against the advice of biologists, but Mr Enoksen has so shown himself willing to this when it comes to both fishing and hunting regulations. In December, he defendend 2017 quoats for cod and flounder (agreed on before he became a cabinet member) that exceeded what scientists say is safe.
Mr Enoksen says his support for the higher quota is based on what the fishermen themselves have to say about the number of fish available to catch.
“Fishermen are no less biologists than someone who holds a degree in biology, and they ought to have a bigger say in how we manage our living resources,” he says.
The position is written into the government’s official manifesto, but business leaders warn against measures that will lead to more boats on the water.
“We already see overcapacity,” says Brian Buus Pedersen, the head of Sulisitsisut, a business lobby. “Adding fishermen is just going to make things worse, and that will be bad for the country.”
He suggests that the government is using quotas as a welfare benefit, rather than an economic asset. The result is more people taking part in an industry that already sees too many people going after too few fish.
“What we need is for Naalakkersuisut [the elected government, ed] to work with businesspeople to support the development of new industries and new jobs,” Mr Buus says.
Mr Enoksen believes such arguments are only made to keep new people from entering the fishing industry. He expects to put forward new fisheries legislation during the autumn session of the national assembly that will change how quotas are issued.
“We can all see that a few people are getting an unfair share, leaving the rest to fight over what’s left over,” he says.