Youngsters at a fishing hole in Greenland. Photo: Lawrence Hislop, UNEP-GRID ArendalUntil the second half of the 20th century, overharvest was the primary threat to a number of Arctic mammals, birds and fishes. A wide variety of conservation and management actions have helped alleviate this pressure in many areas to such an extent that many populations are recovering, although pressures on others persist, according to the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment.

Even though historically overharvest was one of the most common pressures on Arctic wildlife, it is also the most manageable, says the report. The threat of overharvest has been greatly reduced in the Arctic in part because sufficient knowledge exists to develop effective conservation measures and to build support for those actions. In most areas, hunting and fishing are regulated, at least for species of conservation concern. Indeed, the pressure from overharvest has been largely removed as a major conservation concern for most species due to improved management and conservation actions. 

Improved management and conservation actions are based on greater understanding of the potential for harm to species and ecosystems, better regulation and enforcement, and in many cases on greater engagement with Arctic peoples. The incorporation of traditional values, practices and knowledge can help improve both management and enforcement. In many cases local community observations and data collection is central to effecting changes in management regimes.

Muskox ground survey in Greenland, a partnership with local hunters. Photo: Christine CuylerTo date, many examples exist of Arctic peoples describing the changes they witness related to climate, sea ice and especially to harvested wildlife species. There is a persistent need for more community-based monitoring that can detect change, interpret and integrate results, and lead to prompt decision-making to help tackle environmental challenges at operational levels of resource management.

Greenland’s effort to increase community-based monitoring with management provides one of the promising stories that is becoming more common in the Arctic. In addition to other existing local monitoring efforts, the Greenland government is piloting a natural resource monitoring system called Piniakkanik sumiiffinni nalunaarsuineq (Opening Doors to Native Knowledge), whereby local people and local authority staff are directly involved in data collection, interpretation and resource management.

The increased need for information and the necessity of promoting locally relevant knowledge and management actions suggest that there are substantial prospects in the coming decades for more community-based monitoring around the Arctic, and that such an increase will contribute to effective local conservation actions.

A comprehensive and integrated approach is needed to address the interconnected and complex challenges facing biodiversity and to ensure informed policy decisions are taken in a changing Arctic. The threat of overharvest has improved dramatically in recent decades across the Arctic, and working with harvesters has been key to better conservation. Arctic nations and peoples can achieve much more for biodiversity when they work together to ensure that unique environments and species exist for the benefit of future generations.



Tom Barry, +354 861-9824,  tom EP_AT caff EP_DOT is

Executive Secretary, Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna

About the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF)

CAFF is the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council and consists of National Representatives assigned by each of the eight Arctic Council Member States, representatives of Indigenous Peoples' organizations that are Permanent Participants to the Council, and Arctic Council observer countries and organizations. CAFF´s mandate is to address the conservation of Arctic biodiversity, and to communicate its findings to the governments and residents of the Arctic, helping to promote practices which ensure the sustainability of the Arctic’s living resources.  

Arctic States

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Permanent Participants

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