Fishing is Greenland’s largest and most important industry. The fishery resources in Greenlandic waters are the property of the Greenlandic community. These resources are made available to the fishing industry through various management models with authority in the Fisheries Act and its accompanying legislation.

Photo: Royal Greenland
Fishery in Greenland
Greenland’s fishing territory in Western and Eastern Greenland extends 200 nautical miles from the coast. Greenland’s fishing territory is divided into the West and East Greenland fishing areas, with a dividing line that is drawn off southern Greenland. Commercial fishing in Greenland is divided into offshore and coastal fishing.
The coastal segment: Coastal fishing takes place mainly on the west coast, as on the east coast there is no significant commercial coastal fishing and only one fish factory.
Coastal fishing takes place from the baseline and out to the 3 nautical mile limit, with dinghies and small vessels of less than 75 GRT/120 BT. There are however certain exceptions to these rules. Coastal cod and crab vessels may also engage in offshore fishing, and fishing for scallops may take place in coastal or offshore areas, regardless of the vessel’s size.
Coastal fishing primarily takes place using nets and lines, but also by trawling. Coastal fishing is undertaken by dinghies and vessels under 75 BRT/120 BT, but in some areas dog sleds and snowmobiles may also be used in winter fishing on the ice.
Fishing in the coastal segment is primarily for Greenland halibut, prawn, cod, crab and lumpfish, but fishing for scallops, halibut, catfish, salmon, trout and redfish also takes place.
The offshore segment: Offshore fishing takes place from the 3 nautical mile limit and out to the 200 nautical mile limit. Offshore fishing takes place on both the west and east coasts. Fishing in other countries’ territorial waters also takes place in accordance with bilateral fisheries agreements, and in international waters on shared stocks.
Offshore fishing is mainly for prawn, Greenland halibut, cod and redfish, as well as for pelagic species such as capelin, herring and mackerel.
Greenlandic fishing in other waters

Greenlandic offshore fishing vessels also have access to fisheries in Faroese, Norwegian and Russian waters. Access to fishing in foreign waters is regulated by a fixed framework, and negotiations take place every year in which quotas are exchanged through mutual agreements between Greenland and the countries concerned.
In addition to fishing in the waters of other countries, Greenland also has access to fisheries in two international management areas located southwest of Greenland (the NAFO area) and east of Greenland (the NEAFC area).
Quotas and licences
Fishing is regulated by, amongst other things, quotas and licences issued by the Government of Greenland. For each owner or company, the licence states which species the relevant licensee may fish, with which vessels and in what management area the fishing may take place, and other conditions that apply to the fishery.
Licence types per species and vessel type


Fixed-term licences

Non-time-limited licences


Maximum allowable catch

Without maximum allowable catch

Maximum allowable catch

Without maximum allowable catch


Vessels of 75 BRT/ 120 BRT or more



All species, apart from prawn


Species with common quota





Vessels of less than 75 BRT/ 120 BRT and over six metres






Prawn and Greenland halibut



Vessels of less than 75 BRT/ 120 BRT and under six metres




All species



There are primarily two different types of licences, namely fixed-term licences issued for a maximum period of one year at a time, and non-time-limited licences. Each licence type may or may not be associated with a maximum catch.  

A non-time-limited licence associated with a maximum allowable catch is a prerequisite for all commercial prawn fishing. In the case of coastal fishing for Greenland halibut in Disko Bay, Uummannaq and Upernavik, licences are issued on the basis of the overall length of the vessel (L.O.A.). For vessels over 6 metres and less than 19.99 GRT / 31.99 BT. the licence is unlimited with a maximum allowable catch, while for vessels of less than 6 metres the licence is limited without an individual maximum allowable catch (Olympic fishing).
The area of fisheries in Greenland is managed and administered by the Fisheries Department under the Ministry of Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture. The Greenland Fishery Licence Control Authority (GFLK) monitors and inspects the fishing.