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THE DANES SCOURGE THE SEAS
Clive Gammon
December 15, 1969
Everything is fresh and fragrant in Denmark, but something rotten is going on in the waters off Greenland, where Danes are decimating vast schools of migratory Atlantic salmon
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December 15, 1969

The Danes Scourge The Seas

Everything is fresh and fragrant in Denmark, but something rotten is going on in the waters off Greenland, where Danes are decimating vast schools of migratory Atlantic salmon

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How many are caught in British home waters outside the salmon rivers?

None. Salmon fishing has been banned there since 1962.

How many are deterred from going upriver by increased pollution and other environmental changes?

Many fewer than previously. Because of reduction in pollution, and conservation measures, rivers that 20 years ago were barren of salmon had begun once more to have runs. This is true also of some North American rivers.

The Danish case does not stand up to close scrutiny and, although in a later statement the ministry says it does not exclude the possibility of "certain restrictions" like those that govern net fishing in the Baltic, there seems little chance that normal international pressures will make the Danes agree to a ban.

An American salmon authority, Anthony Netboy, recently said that "the history of fishery disputes over the centuries suggests that they are not settled by common sense but by what might be called force majeure, that is, power politics involving implied or threatened economic sanctions."

So far, there is no suggestion of applying economic sanctions against Denmark, except by individual pressure groups of anglers, although Wilfred M. Carter, director of the International Atlantic Salmon Foundation, said this year that it may be necessary to think of a solution involving economic sanctions as a last resort.

Denmark is a country that is very vulnerable to this sort of action. Its standard of living is high—and it depends largely on exports of foodstuffs. Even before the present dispute Danish exports of butter and bacon to Britain had dropped, because they were ceasing to compete with the cheaper Irish products, and there is strong clamor among anglers and people concerned with such things as tourism, fishing-tackle manufacture and fishery management that advantage should be taken of this situation.

The clamor is the greater because there seems to be so little time left. Sir Hugh Mackenzie, director of the Atlantic Salmon Research Trust, Ltd., thinks that we have three years at most in which to end high-seas salmon fishing. Otherwise Salmo salar will have passed the point of no return on its way to extinction.

When one takes the helicopter south from the main Greenland airfield of Sondre Stromfjord, the mountains gradually break down into low gray islands and fjords, where they meet the coast. Nothing grows, except patches of yellow grass and the mosses the reindeer feed on. This is a country that the Danes subsidize at an annual rate of $2,500 per head of the population, a country that is virtually ruled by the Royal Greenland Trading Company, as much of Canada was once ruled by the Hudson's Bay Company and India by the East India Company. It is a curious survival of history, an empire that is never discussed by the U.N.

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