Economy and Industry in Greenland

Overview over economical activities:
The 2013 export in Greenland amounts to app. € 366 mio. with the main part (88 %) being fish and shellfish, making the Greenlandic economy fragile to international price fluctuations. In 2013 almost 47% of Greenland’s export came from cold water shrimp, 26% from halibut and 15% from other fish (namely cod and crabs). In 2013, 2% of the export derived from mining containing mainly gold and olivine.
Another important part of the Greenlandic economy is the annual block grant of app. € 470 mio. allocated to Greenland from the Danish State.



Fishing is the lifeline and primary industry of the Greenlandic economy. The most commercial resources are shrimps, Greenland halibut and recently the reintroduction of cod. The fleet consists of about 850 vessels of various sizes and there is an estimated figure of 5000 smaller boats. Greenland has the legislative competence for the fisheries sector and fishing is regulated by quotas and licence regulations on the basis of biological advice to ensure a sustainable use of the natural resources. The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is set in accordance with the biological advice from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources as well as NAFO, NEAFC and ICES.
The private Polar Seafood Ltd. and the government owned Royal Greenland Ltd. are the two biggest companies and the have several factories and companies in different towns and in several countries in Europe.

Greenland has individual fishery agreements with the EU, Faroe Islands, Norway and Russia.

Energy and minerals

It’s important for the Greenlandic economy to find alternative sources of income and attract foreign investment to supplement the traditional hunting and fishing industries. In this context effort has been put in to developing the sector of energy and mineral resources. As of 2014, a handful of promising mining prospects are prepared, set to open during the next five years, making Greenland one of the most interesting mining nations in the years to come. 

More than 200 years of collection and study of minerals in Greenland has led to the discovery of gold, rubies, diamonds, coppers, olivine, marble and oil, and no less than app. 75 new mineral species are found. It is estimated that the future will bring a possibility of exploiting the reserves of diamonds, platinum, and last, but not least, oil and gas reserves.

In order to become less dependent on the import of oil, Greenland has utilized its hydropower potential by building hydropower plants in Nuuk, Sisimiut and Ilulissat, providing the towns with electricity.

For further information, please view the Government of Greenland's BMP of Minerals and petroleum at:


For the last two decades focus has been put to the tourism industry in Greenland.
You can now go on airway from Denmark, Iceland or Canada (during summer) to Greenland. Cheaper travel packages have been created and since the 1990’s the number of tourist has risen from 3.500 to app. 35.000 annually. The biggest advantage for Greenland is its beautiful and unspoiled nature which makes Greenland quite different and in its own way “exotic” from other travel destinations.

The future challenge for Greenland will be to get more tourists and at the same time make sure to keep the nature intact, which includes a greater awareness of environment and sustainability.


Hunting and agriculture

Until the beginning of the 20th century hunting for seal, whale and other mammals had been the most important source for survival of the Greenlandic people. Today app. 10 % of the workforce is directly or indirectly involved in the hunting industry.

The primary resources in coastal towns are seals and large whales (e.g. minke, fin whale and small whales (e.g. narwhale, white whale and harbour porpoise). Hunting for whales is regulated by quotas from the International Whaling Committee, IWC, and only persons with licence and approved equipment are allowed to hunt whales.

Several kinds of seabirds like guillemot, eider and others are hunted for the local market as well as the grouse, arctic hare, musk ox and reindeer. Seals are hunted for the meat which is an important part of people’s diet and the fur for is used for clothes and the national suit.