Addressing epistemic injustices in species at risk assessments through improved credibility and legitimacy: case study of narwhal management in Ittoqqortoormiit


  • Tanguy Sandré CEARC, UVSQ, Université Paris Saclay, Guyancourt, France / SVT, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
  • Jean-Paul Vanderlinden CEARC, UVSQ, Université Paris Saclay, Guyancourt, France / SVT, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
  • Jeanne-Marie Gherardi LSCE, UVSQ, Université Paris Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • Zhiwei Zhu CEARC, UVSQ, Université Paris Saclay, Guyancourt, France
  • Fern Wickson UiT-The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway / SVT, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway



epistemic injustices, narwhals, quotas, hunting, narratives, species management, decoloniality


The regulation of seal and whale hunting in Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) belongs to the Naalakkersuisut (National Government), which is notably informed by the work of the Scientific Committee (SC) of the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (NAMMCO). Since 2004, quotas were set in Kalaallit Nunaat to regulate hunting practices and promote ecologically sustainable harvesting. In South East Greenland, the SC's recommendations for the closure of the narwhal (Monodon monoceros or qialuar) hunt since 2019 has met both national disagreement and local resistance due to a desire to preserve the long-standing relation with narwhals organised around hunting, which is strongly intertwined within place-based communities’ experiences. The situation requires further attention to deploy an informed dialogue in the light of both available literature and local narratives capturing knowledge and values which are underrepresented within scientific discussions, as are social sciences. Grounded in repetitive and long-standing research fieldwork in Ittoqqortoormiit, and extensive qualitative data collection from 2019 to 2023, the article shows that community members express strong attachment and concern towards narwhal hunting together with the social, economic and cultural importance of mattak (narwhal skin). Local narratives also suggest that the resistance against limitations on narwhal hunting is not to be understood only as a conservatism that aims to preserve traditional hunting practices or about sustaining economic incomes for hunters, but in a significant way as protest against epistemic injustices, resulting from a feeling of being systematically unheard, distrusted and uninvolved in decision-making processes. Together with the expression of concern and attachment for narwhal hunting, the tensions between scientific knowledge and local value and knowledge were reiterated while shared concern for the preservation of the species is affirmed. We show that legitimacy and credibility of the scientific evidence and species management are contested. Ultimately, we ascertain the situation of epistemic injustices and raise the need to shift towards decolonial practices to open the possibility for the emergence of a fair and respectful dialogue that would support narwhal preservation, through securing hunters' material living conditions, community food security, and ensuring consideration and respect is given to individual and collective immaterial dimensions associated with narwhal.


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Sandré, T., Vanderlinden, J.-P., Gherardi, J.-M., Zhu, Z., & Wickson, F. . (2024). Addressing epistemic injustices in species at risk assessments through improved credibility and legitimacy: case study of narwhal management in Ittoqqortoormiit. NAMMCO Scientific Publications, 13.

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