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PISUNA Lessons Learned


Piniakkanik Sumiiffinni Nalunaarsuineq (PISUNA) 


Greenland Ministry of Fisheries and Hunting; Association of Fishers and Hunters in Greenland (KNAPK); Qeqertalik and Avannaata Municipalities 


2009– Ongoing.


The environment of Greenland is rapidly changing. PISUNA aims at helping decision-makers in communities, local authorities, and central government by providing information from the regular collection and interpretation of data on living resources and their utilization. 

There are five objectives: 

  • to strengthen documentation of the locals’ knowledge of the living resources by utilizing their observational capacity.

  • to encourage local analysis, interpretation and discussion of changes in the living resources, thereby increasing local capacity and creating an understanding of the need for management interventions.

  • to make local observations, analysis, and recommendations available to the government.

  • to enhance the local stakeholders’ influence over government decisions on fishing and hunting, and

  • to provide a forum for data-based dialog between local stakeholders and the government.


See also Polar Geography 37: 69-91 (2014) and the Wiki on Participatory Monitoring.


The objectives have been partly achieved. Greenland now has a community-based observation program that provides an opportunity for indigenous and local community members’ insights and knowledge on the environment to be used and their ‘voices’ heard. This observation program can provide an important basis for the effective protection and sustainable use of Greenland’s biodiversity and ecosystem services. The work is continuing.


Greenlandic Natural Resource Councils are set up by the government with the assistance of the PISUNA program comprising volunteers from among some of the most experienced and interested local hunters, fishermen and other people interested in the environment. When members of these councils are in the field, they collect data on living resources and their use. These data are summarised, discussed and interpreted at regular meetings of each council. Moreover, possible management actions emanating from the results are also discussed. Data interpretation is led by the volunteer co-ordinator from each council. The local actions are enacted upon and those actions that require government approval are forwarded to the municipal and national government for their decisions and action.


A total of 90 community members have participated; 55 have been documenting living resources as active members of the Natural Resource Councils at the community level. A total of 15 communities (villages) in three municipalities have been engaged in the program. Five communities use the program on a regular basis - for documenting trends in resources and proposing management actions. All the data and recommendations are publicly available in a searchable, “real-time” web-server database with local observations of living resources in Greenland, see below.

A total of 494 proposed natural resource management actions have emanated from the program. The proposed natural resource management actions related to six categories: change in fishing and hunting seasons (146 proposed actions); change in quotas (123); other changes in rules and bylaws (125); enabling trade in products from specific resources (36); facilitating more research (30); and other proposed actions (36).

Overall, the proposed actions concerned 90 different actions for 30 species and types of resource use. Most of them were submitted to the local government authority and a few were submitted from the local government authority to the central government. The proposed changes in fishing and hunting seasons related for instance to common eider and Canada goose (expansion of season) and musk ox and thick-billed murre (reduction of season). The proposed changes in quotas concerned for instance Atlantic cod (increase in quota) and musk ox and thick-billed murre (reduction in quota). The proposals to enable trade in products from specific resources related to four species: harp seal, Atlantic cod, Greenland halibut, and spotted wolffish.

Examples of the local Natural Resource Councils’ proposals for further research include:

  1. Kangersuatsiaq recommended Atlantic codsurveys in the North, where the stocks are growing fast, in order to clarify the options for fishery.

  2. Kangersuatsiaq recommended wolffishsurveys the North to clarify the options here.

  3. Attu recommended that the cariboupopulation be monitored before each hunting season to allow for annual adjustment of management.

  4. Attu recommended a review of the current management regime for walrusin the Kangaatsiaq Management Area.

  5. Akunnaaq will test harvesting of Arctic tern eggs while monitoring to ensure sustainability.

  6. Akunnaaq asked for testing of acoustic devices to regulate humpback whale abundance in the vicinity of fishing gear.

  7.  Qaarsut will assist in censuses of common eider breeding colonies.

  8. Kitsissuarsuit found that the reason behind the thick-billed murre breeding population decline needed further study.

The documentation available in the description of management actions typically involves data on species, time (month and year), area (usually, in broad terms, the fishing and hunting area of the community but, in some cases, also the specific site within this broader area), observer, trend in relation to same time last year, importance of the finding, possible explanation, and proposed action. The documentation sometimes also includes number of fishing or hunting days, fishing or hunting gear, and fishing and hunting effort and catch. 


Over the course of the project, we made two major changes to this process. First, we introduced a symbolic honorarium for community members who attended the Natural Resource Council meetings if their report was properly filled in and submitted to the local government in time. This gesture proved very important. It has substantially ramped up the timely submission of quarterly reports. 

Second, we changed the flow of data from community members so that all local reports would go from local government to KNAPK with a copy to central government (APN) and not only to central government. This enabled KNAPK to benefit directly from local knowledge on trends in resources, equipping it to enter into a more well-informed, data-based dialogue with the central government on quotas and fishing and hunting regulations and measures. Management proposals requiring central government action would still be forwarded directly to APN by the local government.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT: PISUNA has become widely accepted as the central tool in Greenland for enabling local communities to document and discuss trends in living resources and to propose management adjustments. In the 2017 budget, Qaasuitsup Municipality (from 2018 split into the two municipalities, Qeqertalik and Avannaata) has set aside staff time for coordination and financial resources for reimbursing community members for their time spent in discussing and reporting their findings, suggesting a strong commitment to continue the PISUNA program on the part of the municipal authorities. 


We have learnt several lessons. For instance, we have found that the use of analogue calendars and very detailed formats for recording observations on each field trip do not work well, except with a few fishers and hunters. Together with community members, we have instead developed a simple quarterly summary form. Through its structure, the form encourages self-evaluation of local observations and knowledge and, at the same time, promotes local discussion of trends, their possible reasons and relevant actions. 

Our experiences have reinforced just how important it is to have strong local coordination of the community monitoring network. The project has benefitted from a committed senior staff member within the local government authority who is well-known and respected among the community members, and who has assisted the village-level volunteer coordinators with their work and encouraged close links between the community monitoring and the decision-makers in the local government authority.

Finally, our experiences have also shown that a close dialogue between researchers, community members, civil society organisations and government staff can be very effective in translating community monitoring principles and ideas into implementation in the ‘real world’.

Fishers and hunters propose concrete actions, based on their own observations. The authorities are beginning to listen. Fishers and hunters are beginning to get a stronger ’voice’ in topics of great importance to them. The locals and the municipality want to continue. With the PISUNA program and the awareness about it, there is now a proven tool available for communities who want to adapt their resource use to the changes in climate.












Screenshot of PISUNA-net. PISUNA-net is a searchable, ”real-time” web-based database containing the observations and knowledge of experienced local fishers and hunters from the PISUNA community monitoring program in Greenland. With 2-3 keystrokes, the community members’ knowledge and their proposed management actions on living resources, emanating from their own interpretation of the observations (species, area and time) become available for other community members and for decision-makers. Developed by the project in cooperation with ELOKA and University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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