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Greenland targeting tourists with whale meat

Greenland is increasingly using whale meat to target tourists, so making a mockery of the International Whaling Commission's classification of subsistence whaling.
Greenland buffet promotional poster
Greenland buffet promotional poster


In August and September 2014, WDC carried out a series of investigations into the sale of whale meat and products to tourists in Greenland.

We found meat from four species, minke, fin, narwhal, and the most widespread, humpback whale, on sale to both local indigenous Inuit and tourists.

Illulisatt external shot

Greenlandic Tourism

Greenland reports that in 2012 it received around 65,000 foreign tourists. In 2012 Greenland hosted 30,000 cruise visitors and a further estimated 35,000 tourists arrived by air. Tourism is a success story for Greenland.

Most visitors were reported to come from Denmark followed by the USA and Germany.

restaurant dish of whale meat served to tourists
Restaurant dish of whale meat served to tourists

Greenland, in IWC/65/17 ‘Utilization of large whales in Greenland’, claims that it should be allowed to sell whale meat to tourists, but that there are only 13 sales of whale meat a day in restaurants equating to some 1,600kg of whale meat a year.  Greenlandic authorities claim that very few of these dishes are sold to tourists.

Tourists arriving in Greenland to sample Greenlandic culture
Tourists arriving in Greenland to sample Greenlandic culture

Visit Greenland reports ’…certain activities dominate the tourism industry in Greenland. In order to change this, product development and appropriate marketing are necessary, In particular, cultural product  development is necessary so that tourists interested in cultural activities do not have to engage primarily in nature-based activities’.  Whale meat and whaling appear to be an increasing focus for tourism promotion, with even activities such as ‘accompanying Inuit on a whale hunt being noted and considered by tourism authorities for future development.

Most tourists are given the opportunity to try whale meat during their stay and indeed official marketing for visitors actively employs whale meat as an attraction.

'How would you like a whale burger with angelica dressing? Or an ice-cold whale carpaccio of fillet and mattak...'

Promotional website for Greenlandic food for tourists
Greenland actively promoting whale meat to tourists

The official 'Taste of Greenland' promotional website claims that:

‘The way to a travellers heart, is through their stomach?’

‘…a new generation of creative chefs have in recent years started working with contemporary gastronomic interpretations of meat from marine mammals. How would you like a whale burger with angelica dressing? Or an ice-cold whale carpaccio of fillet and mattak, garnished with thyme sorbet and crowberries?‘

Promotional website form Greenland
Greenland promotional website

Results of the Investigation


In Nuuk, the capital of Greenland with a resident population (c.16,800), our investigation found

  • Blue whales, sei and sperm whales featured in a lexicon of whale species (in English, as well as Kalaallisut and Danish) displayed above the chill cabinets in the braettet (fish market) on the capital’s main street.
  • During our visit the Cruise ship, ‘MS Amadea’ deposited some 570 passengers, mainly German passengers. Tourists were observed in the Nuuk braettet during the day, which is in a prime location for visitors. The Nuuk braettet features significantly in tourism promotional material (5).

Lexicon of Greenlandic whale products
Lexicon of Greenlandic whale products

Why is the guide written in English if it is not targeted at tourists and why does it list blue, sei and sperm whales, - all of which are IWC protected species in Greenlandic waters?

Well stocked supermarket in Nuuk
Well stocked supermarket in Nuuk

Freezer full of whale meat Nuuk supermarket
Freezer full of whale meat Nuuk supermarket

Nuuk Supermarket bakery
At the same supermarket

Harbour porpoise in Nuuk fish market
Harbour porpoise in Nuuk fish market


In Ilulissat (population c.4,500) we found

  • The Braettet (fish market) had freshly killed minke whale (with pectoral fin) on sale, again, also available to tourists.
  • Humpback whale meat on sale at the Pisiffik supermarket, again freely available to tourists.
  • Café Inuit had whale meat on the menu.
  • Café Hong Kong (takeaway) offered a whale curry.
  • The World of Greenland Visitor Centre offered narwhal, beluga, orca and other whale artefacts.
  • Ice Cap Tours (offering boat trips and other tourist excursions) offered a similar range of whale artefacts.
  • The Cruise ship, Le Australis, deposited 300 French tourists.
  • Our investigator also encountered tourists of many other nationalities, including British, German, Belgian, Danish, Norwegian and Japanese tourists.

minke whale in fish market in greenland


In Tasiilaq - lthe argest settlement on the East coast, population c. 2,000, we found

  • Humpback whale meat (Pukkelhval) and minke whale meat and blubber on sale in Pilersuisoq, a large, modern, well-stocked supermarket, where it is also available to tourists.
  • Narwhal jewellery and orca tooth necklace on sale in various outlets, but no obvious mention anywhere of export requirements under CITES.
  • Cruise ship, Le Boreal, was in port, depositing around 260 tourists.
Humpback whale meat for sale in supermarket
Humpback whale meat for sale in supermarket
This investigation was made possible by the support of the SEA LIFE Trust