Ecosystem overviews

Greenland Sea Ecosystem Overview

Ecoregion description

​​​​​The Greenland Sea ecoregion is the eastern part of Greenland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and comprises continental shelf waters and offshore areas. The Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland separates the ecoregion into northern and southern subregions that differ in ice coverage, influence of polar and Atlantic waters, and anthropogenic activity. The ecoregion borders five other ICES ecoregions, indicated in Figure 1 (Oceanic Northeast Atlantic, Icelandic Waters, Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea, and Central Arctic Ocean).

  • The northern subregion is characterized by cold and fresh polar waters, a broad continental shelf, year-round sea ice (in the northwest), and little human activity.
  • The southern subregion is characterized by warmer and more saline waters, a narrower continental shelf in its southern part, and seasonal drift ice, as well as demersal and pelagic fishery activities.
The government of Greenland obtains advice for the fish and shellfish resources within the region from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), and on environmental issues from the Commission of the Oslo–Paris Convention (OSPAR). The North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO) and International Whaling Commission (IWC) provide advice on marine mammals. As the ecoregion is within the Greenland EEZ, the management of marine resources and raw material extraction within the region are under Greenland authority. Management of living resources whose distribution extends outside the EEZ is conducted by several regional fisheries organizations and commissions.
North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) is involved in management of widely-distributed fish stocks such as herring (Clupea harengus), mackerel, pelagic redfish and a number of deep-sea species, while fish stocks distributed within the Greenland EEZ or adjacent EEZs like capelin (Mallotus villosus), demersal redfish, cod (Gadus morhua) and Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides) are managed autonomously by Greenland or by coastal state agreements
Maritime activities such as international shipping are regulated by the Danish Maritime Authority and the government of Greenland, according to International Maritime Organization (IMO) conventions and Arctic Council agreements. Greenlandic laws concerning mining and hydrocarbon activities are aligned with OSPAR guidelines and recommendations and, therefore, require an environmental impact assessment process. 


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TFigure 1: The Greenland Sea ecoregion. The other ICES ecoregions indicated are: CAO (Central Arctic Ocean), GS (Greenland Sea), BS (Barents Sea), NS (Norwegian Sea), IW (Icelandic Waters), ONEA (Oceanic Northeast Atlantic).​

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Greenland Sea Ecosystem Overview

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) · Conseil International pour l'Exploration de la Mer (CIEM)
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