The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission


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Beluga inhabit the waters of two NAMMCO member states: Norway and Greenland. Norway does not presently permit the harvest of beluga in its territory. The stock of beluga that winters off West Greenland summers in Arctic Canada; therefore management is a shared responsibility between Greenland and Canada. Greenland and Canada have therefore established a bilateral management body, the Canada/Greenland Joint Commission on the Conservation and Management of Narwhal and Beluga (JCNB). The JCNB has a Scientific Working Group which meets jointly with the NAMMCO Scientific Committee Working Group on the Population Status of Narwhal and Beluga in the North Atlantic. This scientific body provides advice at the request of the JCNB and NAMMCO, pertaining to such issues as stock delineation, total allowable catches and threats to beluga and narwhal populations. The JCNB Commission meets periodically to receive this advice and provide management advice to Canada and Greenland.

The Ministry of Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture is responsible for regulating beluga whaling in Greenland. Regulations govern the seasons in which belugas can be hunted and the weapons and equipment that may be used for beluga hunting. Successful whale hunts must be reported to municipal authorities to facilitate monitoring of the harvest. Compliance with quotas and other regulations is monitored by wildlife officers at the local level.

Science-based sound management gives results

Greenland has set quotas for beluga in response to JCNB and NAMMCO advice. In 2004, a quota of 320 beluga per year was established for West Greenland. Catches and quotas have fluctuated since then, with catches ranging from 120 to 290 for West Greenland.

There is evidence that these new management measures may have already had a positive effect on the population. Recent assessments indicate that a harvest of up to 310 animals per year will allow the population to continue to recover, and that current harvest levels are therefore sustainable (NAMMCO 2010, 2012a).

Status according to other organizations

Belugas are currently listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (as are all species of cetaceans not listed on Appendix I). CITES is a legally-binding multilateral environmental agreement that aims to ensure that international trade does not threaten the survival of species in the wild. Both Denmark (Greenland) and Norway are signatories to the convention. A listing on Appendix II means that an export permit shall only be granted when the Scientific Authority of the State of export has advised that such export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.

On the IUCN “Red list” belugas are listed as Near Threatened in an assessment made in 2008 (Jefferson et al. 2012).