Alaska and Greenland collaborate on sustainable fisheries

A rocky outcropping and some buildings on the shore overlooking the Atlantic Ocean
A summer view of the Atlantic Ocean from Nuuk, Greenland. Photo courtesy of Chris Sannito.

This summer, Alaska Sea Grant participated in exchange visits with Greenland partners through the U.S. State Department’s Arctic Education Alliance. The two trips were part of a growing collaboration between the Arctic neighbors, allowing regional representatives to share approaches to sustainable fisheries.

The first exchange this June took Alaska Sea Grant seafood technology specialist, Chris Sannito, to Nuuk, Greenland, where he toured several groundfish and shrimp processing facilities in the capital city.

“I was there to observe and to try to determine some of the differences between the Greenland fisheries and Alaska fisheries,” Sannito explained. “I also provided suggestions for value-added seafood development based on how we operate in Alaska.”

Man smiling on a dock giving a thumbs-up after exiting a float plane.
Greenlanders returning from a fish hatchery excursion to Saltry Cove, Kodiak, Alaska, September 2023. Photo by Quentin Fong/Alaska Sea Grant.

Sannito visited two facilities while in Greenland. The first was Royal Greenland, a government-subsidized seafood company that provides primary processing before sending the product to other plants across Europe for reprocessing into value-added products. Sannito also visited Polar Seafoods, a private company that operates a state-of-the-art shrimp processing line.

“The degree of sophistication was as high as anything that I have seen in Alaska,” Sannito said. “Things that stood out to me in Greenland, in regards to potential improvements, were the lack of a developed small boat fishery and of smaller seafood processing plants.”

Following Sannito’s trip to Greenland, Alaska Sea Grant returned the hospitality by welcoming Greenlanders to Alaska. In early September, three Greenlanders arrived to learn more about the state’s salmon enhancement and hatchery systems.

A group of people in outdoor gear posing.
Greenlanders and Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association crew at Kitoi hatchery, Kodiak, Alaska.

“The folks were really taken aback by the salmon enhancement program,” said Alaska Sea Grant seafood marketing specialist, Quentin Fong. “They have a very small Atlantic salmon spot in Greenland with very little return, but it’s culturally significant. So, they are looking at food security and perhaps also commercial uses.”

Angela Bowers gesturing and talking to two men.
UAS assistant professor Angela Bowers (center) explaining a hands-on salmon enhancement program to Bent Oleson (left) and Micheal Rosen in Sitka, Alaska. Photo by Quentin Fong/Alaska Sea Grant.

On their tour of Alaska, the Greenlanders visited Kodiak, Juneau and Sitka. While in Kodiak, they visited the Kodiak Regional Aquaculture Association, the Pillar Creek Hatchery, and the Kitoi Bay Hatchery to understand the production aspects of salmon enhancement.

A visit to Juneau included a stop at nonprofit salmon hatchery Douglas Island Pink and Chum, as well as meetings with key government officials. Time in the state’s capital city allowed the visitors to learn about the government’s role in salmon enhancement, including financing, and the rules and regulations that govern the hatchery system.

While in Sitka, the partners were able to meet with Angela Bowers, a University of Alaska Southeast professor and aquaculture lead of the fisheries technology program, to observe Bower’s classes and the discuss curriculum, with the idea that similar classes could be established in Greenland as vocational programs. Additionally, a stop at the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association provided more insight into governance of the aquaculture association and public engagement.

“The conclusion that they came to was that, in Greenland, their fishery management is basically command and control,” Fong said. “The public doesn’t really have any say. They were really enlightened by our management system, which includes a lot of public input. In Alaska, it’s a public-driven process. They were amazed at how the boards of these aquaculture associations guide operations.”

Four people gather in a fish hatchery.
Bent Oleson, Mitdlarak Lannert and Michael Rosing get a tour with Katie Harms, executive director of Douglas Island Pink and Chum Inc., Juneau, Alaska. Photo by Quentin Fong/Alaska Sea Grant.

Both Fong and Sannito confirmed a return trip to Greenland is already in the works, and along with Tina Fairbanks, executive director for KRAA, they are slated to return to Nuuk in early November to give a seminar on Alaska fisheries during the Greenland Science Week.

Alaska Sea Grant’s partnerships in Greenland stem from the “Arctic Education Alliance: Building Capacity Through University Linkages between the United States and Greenland” program. Launched by the U.S. State Department in 2020, the AEA is a collaboration between Greenlandic and American education institutions to build education capacity in Greenland for land and fisheries management, sustainable tourism and hospitality. Through professional relationships and ongoing collaboration between institutions of higher education and vocational studies in Greenland and the United States, and in line with the Government of Greenland’s overall objectives, the AEA seeks to help Greenland meet its workforce development needs.

For more information about Alaska Sea Grant’s role in the AEA program, contact Quentin Fong.