There is a long tradition for harvesting seabirds in Greenland. Hunting has always been – and to large extent still is – an important part of what defines “Greenlandic identity” and the right to harvest your own food is considered fundamental. Seabirds has historical been an important food supply and their down or skins has been use as insulation from extreme temperatures. Today seabirds are still important for subsistence and recreational hunting, but harvest levels are declining.
A total of 19 seabird species can be harvested in Greenland. The harvest is regulated by open and closed hunting seasons along with daily quotas for some species. In general, the birds are now protected in the spring and during the breeding season, usually from the beginning of March or May until the end of August or mid-October.
The most important Greenland seabird species in terms of harvesting is the Brünnich’s Guillemot. The species is mainly hunted during winter, and although the annual number of harvested guillemots has been significantly reduced over the last years, the breeding population is still declining most places in Greenland. The second most harvested seabird species in Greenland, the common eider, is recovering these years after decades with substantial hunting. The most abundant seabird species in Greenland, the small-sized little auk, is also locally important during the short Arctic summer.