1.         Ilulissat Icefjord (Denmark) (N 1149bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2004

Criteria  (vii)(viii)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1149/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1149/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions


Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Tourism impacts;

b) Hunting and fishing 

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1149/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2009

At the time of inscription of this property by the World Heritage Committee at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004), the Committee recommended the State Party to review the protection and management of the property, particularly in relation to hunting, fishing, and tourism activities and to submit a report on progress achieved for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007). Subsequently, a report was submitted and the request addressed. At its 31st session the World Heritage Committee requested the State Party (Decision 31 COM 7B.28) to provide copies of the revised management plan and new Monitoring Plan, to continue improving and monitoring tourism management to reduce its impact on the property and to implement restrictions on hunting.

In response to the above requests, the State Party provided the report of the Environmental and Nature Agency, Greenland Home Rule, on 12 February 2009 to the World Heritage Centre. The management plan 2009-2014 for the property was also submitted and transmitted to IUCN for review.

The report notes that a comprehensive monitoring plan for the property has been prepared by the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) and that, a practical framework to implement this is currently being formulated by the Greenland Home Rule and Qaasuitsup Kommunia (former Municipality of Ilulissat). Measures have also been taken to improve and monitor tourism management, including a review of helicopter use in relation to routes, frequency, landing sites and capacity, and the establishment of a wooden pathway to the Sermermiut archaeological site. The report also notes that an Executive Order of 15 June 2007 on the protection of Ilulissat Icefjord endorsed by the Parliament of Greenland, has improved the situation as cruise ships are now not permitted within the property and that anchoring and laying up boats are also prohibited. The quota on halibut fisheries has been reduced (to 8,800 metric tonnes in 2009). These levels are considered to be sustainable by the State Party.

The Executive Order of 2007 also permits traffic only on designated paths from 1 April to 31 October, prohibits vessels above 1,000 gross registered tons and restricts use of tents and open fires to a maximum of 24 hours in one place. Furthermore, a steering committee has been established with representatives from the Greenland Home Rule, the Heritage Agency of Denmark and the Municipality of Ilulissat Icefjord to improve the management and for the implementation of the management plan.

The management plan submitted aims to minimize threats to the property and ensure sustainable activities including tourism, hunting and fishing and sustainable land use. It also aims to raise awareness about the property.

Concerning pressures from human activities, a doubling in the number of visitors is reported (from 18,000 in 2006 to 35,000 in 2008). It is noted that tourism pressure such as physical damage to the property from increasing visitor numbers, and noise from motorised vehicles, vessels and helicopters remains the important threats to the property and that it is being addressed through the revised management plan. The monitoring plan focuses on the values of the World Heritage property and on the areas experiencing the greatest human impacts.

The report concludes that the assessment of the values of the property in relation to the relevant criteria is adequate, that the site has maintained its integrity since its inscription and that the management has been improved by enhancing legal protection, establishing a steering committee, improving financial resources and finalizing the management plan. The property does not have a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value according to the agreed format for such statements at the present time. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the existing Statement will be updated through the periodic reporting process.

On 29 January 2009, the NGOs Earthjustice and the Australian Climate Justice Program submitted a petition, entitled “The Role of Black Carbon in Endangering World Heritage Sites Threatened by Glacial Melt and Sea Level Rise” to the World Heritage Committee. The petition ‘calls on the World Heritage Committee to take action to protect the Outstanding Universal Values of World Heritage Sites most vulnerable to global warming.’ Properties protecting glaciers were highlighted in particular. The petition suggests mitigation strategies to reduce the production of black carbon- particularly from ship fuel and diesel. IUCN notes that the State Party recognizes the threat to the property from Climate Change in its management plan. The State Party notes that monitoring of climate, glaciers and permafrost areas show that the property is responding to climatic change. IUCN recommends that the State Party develop adaptive management measures to optimise the ability of the ecosystem and resident wildlife to adapt to changing condition. Resilience would be enhanced by ensuring ecosystem connectivity and reducing threats and pressures that could increase vulnerability to climate change.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the enhanced collaboration among Arctic States Parties to the World Heritage Convention, indigenous peoples and Arctic communities as a follow-up to the “World Heritage and the Arctic” expert meeting (Narvik, Norway, December 2007) and the UNESCO International Expert Meeting on Climate Change and Arctic Sustainable Development: scientific, social, cultural and educational challenges” (Monaco, 3-6 March 2009) and encourage the State Party of Denmark to share the management plan with other stakeholders in the region to promote the sharing of best practice in the management of fragile properties in the Arctic. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN


Decision Adopted: 33 COM 7B.23

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7B,

2. Recalling Decision 31 COM 7B.28, adopted at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007),

3. Notes the improved legal protection through the Executive Order of 15 June 2007 and the completion of the management plan 2009-2014 in 2008 and requests the national, regional and local authorities to ensure their implementation;

4. Requests the State Party to collaborate with other States Parties whose World Heritage properties contain glaciers to monitor the impacts on those properties of global climate change, and to develop adaptive management strategies to ensure the long-term protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the properties in response to climate and other environmental change.