by Ms Inge Thaulow, Specialist Advisor for the Greenland Home Rule Government, Ministry of Environment and Nature
The Ministry of Environment and Nature (Greenland Home Rule) responsible for the management of the World Heritage Site, works closely together with the Community of Ilulissat, who are responsible for the day-to day management of the protected area.
Tourism activities and the new legislation
Sailing: The Disco Bay area and the town of Ilulissat is visited by a growing amount of cruise ships and due to less ice in the outermost part of the protected area some cruise ships navigate into the area and land tourists on the very fragile cliff that leads to the Sermermiut Valley (Zone A).
New legislation: Zoning regulation for the marine area has been worked out (see app.2). Navigation in area B is only allowed for smaller boats conducting original commercial activities of hunting and fisheries. Furthermore only boats less than 1.000 GRT (Gross Registered Tonnes) are allowed in area C. This implies that only smaller tourism vessels are allowed to enter the outermost part of the fjord. Furthermore no landing is allowed in the area and the legislation now provides the possibility of enforcing the use of a guide with knowledge of the area when entering in a tourism vessel.
Helicopter use: Small 6-8 person’s helicopters fly in tourists to visit the inner fjord and enjoy the sight of the glacier front. The groups only stay for approximately. ½ hour.
New legislation: It will only be permitted to land on two specific spots deep in the fjord and a permit will be issued each year for a certain number of flights, with flight path and timing restrictions.
Hiking: All tourists that visit the area walk through the Sermermiut valley (Zone A) to enjoy the spectacular sight of the fjord and study the archaeological remains.
New legislation: Hiking will only be allowed on marked pathways in the Sermermiut Valley between April – October.
Local activities in relation to sustainable use of the World Heritage area: Locals also use the Sermermiut Valley area for recreational activities, and they will be subject to the same restrictions concerning use of the pathway system.
Development area for tourism cabins: There are plans to develop an opportunity to stay over night in the area on a very simple basis.
New legislation: Only one area will be allocated for the development of tourism cabins, as opposed to the two areas suggested in the original legislation. The number of permitted cabins is still only seven simple one-story cabins in a single cluster. Permission has not been granted yet to develop tourism cabins but it was decided that having two possible development areas, would be a challenge monitoring-wise and would cause more disturbance to the wildlife.
Therefore in the revised executive order specific spots are defined for huts and for helicopter landings and part of the area is divided into 3 zones (app.2):
- A - the terrestrial area of Sermermiut Valley (app. 3)
- B - the larger inner part of the fjord
- C - the outermost marine part of the protected area
The zones are established both to clearly limit certain activities and define areas for certain monitoring, research etc. These conservation issues will be elaborated in the management plan.
In continuation of the revised executive order the authorities have begun to revise the existing management plan for the area. The revision of the management plan will ensure that the legislation will be followed up by action and incorporate guidelines which include more strict regulations of helicopter flights, control of traffic in the Sermermiut Valley, and zoning of the marine area of the site. Rules will be established concerning which vessels will have to use a local guide when entering the area.
As reflected in item 1, due to the growing pressures from tourism there will be set terms for helicopter flights and landings in the protected area which will include restrictions on days of flights, the flight corridor and time schedules for flights in the area. It is hoped that these actions will secure the environmental capacity of the area, the biological resources of the sites and prevent the disturbance of breeding bird’s colonies.
Monitoring in general
The natural resources of the disco Bay area are naturally part of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, arts monitoring plan.
Firstly, areas in need of attention and simple but consistent ways of monitoring had to be identified. It was acknowledged early on that the local and national authorities had to be able to conduct some of the monitoring, both to secure awareness at the local level and make the process financially viable.
The design consists of 3 different levels of monitoring:
- scientific monitoring of the geological features of the calving ice front
- locally based monitoring of biological resources in relation to tourism pressures
- gathering of local data on a micro-level on the number of tourists, the number of activities, and activity-areas etc.
It is expected that the monitoring plan will be adjusted in line with the revised executive order.
So what we have done so far is to revise the executive order.
In continuation of the revised executive order the authorities have initiated a revision of the existing management plan for the area.
The revision of the management plan will make sure that the legislation will be followed up by action and incorporate guidelines which include stricter regulations of helicopter flights, control of traffic in the Sermermiut Valley, and zoning of the marine area of the site. Rules will also be set in place, regarding the type of vessel which will be required to use a local guide when entering the area.
In comparison to the existing management plan the revised management plan will be more closely related to day-to-day management and a stricter regime outlining the basis on which tasks that relate to monitoring and conservation need to be conducted.