November 1, 2018: Behind NAMMCO – Fernando Ugarte
Having begun his involvement with NAMMCO in 2005, Fernando Ugarte is committed to ensuring a sustainable future for the Arctic.
History of Involvement with NAMMCO:
While I was a student of biology in Mexico City in 1990, I took what I thought was going to be a year off to travel the world. One thing led to another and instead of returning home, I ended up enrolled at the University of Tromsø, using all my spare time to work in killer whale and sperm whale projects connected to the Andenes Whale Centre. I first heard of NAMMCO in 1992, when they used one of my pictures for their very first brochure. I finished an MSc on killer whales in 2001 and spent a few years working in different cetacean projects in Iceland, Antarctica and Wales, until I landed a job at the Government of Greenland in 2005, working with management of marine mammals, including collaboration with NAMMCO. In 2007, I became head of the department of birds and mammals at GINR and shortly after I joined NAMMCO’s scientific committee. Living in Norway, Iceland and Greenland has shifted my interest on marine mammals from sheer fascination, to a wish to understand the connections between the animals, the ecosystem they are part of, the people that hunt them and the global need to find a way to conserve this planet, while using its resources in a sustainable way. Things are changing very rapidly in the arctic, and it is important to understand, monitor and document this changes. NAMMCO uses this knowledge to advice the governments about how to use and conserve nature. One of the valuable characteristics of NAMMCO is that it is not an organisation closed upon itself, but it reaches out to collaborate with other relevant bodies, such as the Arctic Council, ICES, NAFO or the IWC. In the years I have been in Greenland, I have seen how management of narwhal, walrus, beluga and harbour seal has shifted from unregulated and unsustainable hunts to a system where NAMMCO can document that most stocks are used in a sustainable way. This is an incredibly valuable achievement. However, there is still work to do to ensure that all stocks are sustainably managed, and therefore NAMMCO’s work is as important as ever.