Fishing is the main business in Greenland. However, land-based industries (including construction and service companies) are gaining in fisheries as the industries with the highest number of employees in total.
The most important resource for fishing is the shrimp, which is fished from large factory trawlers as well as smaller trawlers that supply the fishing industry facilities in the cities. Shrimp fishing seems to have peaked with an annual catch of almost 70,000 tonnes (1996). In recent years, climatic causes have shifted fishing to the south, and in recent years, according to the advice of biologists, the national government has reduced annual quotas by 5 percent each year.
Another important resource has been the cod, but also for climatic reasons, this resource has not been nearly as abundant in the Greenland waters as before. In 1990 about 60,000 tonnes were fished compared to approx. 3 – 400,000 tons per years in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Fishing for halibut is increasing by about 23,000 tonnes (1998). Cod makes up approx. 5,500 tonnes (1998). An experimental fishing for crabs started in 1995/96; it amounts to approx. 2,000 tons (1998).
For almost a fifth of the Greenland population, catching has a direct or indirect significance. These are primarily the people of Thule, Upernavik, Uummannaq, Ammassalik and Ittoqqortoormiit (Scoresbysund).
The most important resource is ring seal and Greenland seal, but walrus, narwhale and white whale are also of great importance.
Sheep breeding is conducted in the southern Greenland municipalities of Nanortalik, Narsaq and Qaqortoq (Julianehåb). The meat is sold on the domestic market, and as demand is high, lamb is imported from Iceland. In 1997, the slaughterhouse Neqi started a small export of quality lamb for restaurants and supermarket chains in Denmark.
In South Greenland, there are also smaller farms, which include. grows potatoes, turnips, hay, etc.
In the commercial sector, the home-controlled KNI Pisiffik A/S is the largest company. KNI sells goods according to a fixed one-price system, ie. The cookies cost the same in Qaanaaq as in Nuuk, although the real costs for North Greenland are higher. KNI accounts for approximately half of retail sales in Greenland. The other half takes care of the private shops. Brugsen is the largest of the private trading companies.
Over time, the extraction of mineral raw materials has taken place, among other things. coal at Uummannaq and on Disko Island, as well as lead at Mestersvig in Northeast Greenland. In the years 1857 – 1987, cryolite was mined in Ivittuut in South Greenland. The last active mine was the lead and zinc mine in Maarmorilik, which closed in 1990.
Find out in recent years by Lead and zinc in North Greenland, gold in South Greenland, and diamonds at Nuuk are promising major activities in the coming years.
An exploration well for oil in the sea off Nuuk will be launched in the summer of 2000. This is done in collaboration between Statoil, DONG and NunaOil. Strict environmental requirements are set for such activities.
In 1991, in a bid to make the Greenlandic economy less dependent on fisheries, the county council decided to give tourism a saltwater injection in the hope of new jobs and foreign exchange earnings. The annual number of tourists is estimated at approx. 18,000 (1998).