Growing up in Sisimiut, a town on Greenland’s western coast, Sofia Geisler’s mother taught her to work hard and value an education. Her father taught her to ask questions.
“He’d say, “If you don’t ask, you won’t get the answers,” said Sofia, who was appointed executive director of Oceans North Kalaallit Nunaat in June.
Those strengths have contributed to her long career as a broadcast journalist, communications professional, administrator, mediator and elected official. And now Sofia brings this wealth of experience to her new role at Oceans North Kalaallit Nunaat.
The new environmental organization (known as a Fund or Fond in Danish) is based in Nuuk and was set up in September 2021 with the support of Oceans North. This partnership is an outgrowth of our work towards protecting Pikialasorsuaq, a large polynya in northern Baffin Bay, and promoting sustainable fishing in Greenland.
“The sustainable management of the fishery has been a big interest of mine for many years,” said Sofia.
While serving as a Member of Parliament from 2018 until earlier this year, Sofia said she focused on fisheries reform, including submitting 26 questions related to the need for better management of the Greenlandic halibut and shrimp fisheries.
“Sustainability is a very emotional word for many people,” she said. “People fear that something will be taken away.”
That’s why fisheries reform must take the “human side” of the issue into consideration and include a “respectful approach” when discussing fishing quotas and other solutions. She hopes her background experience, including as a mediator, will give her the tools to achieve this.
The first time Sofia heard about Oceans North was about five years ago when she was a TV journalist. She had invited Alfred Jakobsen, the former Greenland projects director for Oceans North, to the studio for an interview about his work on an international fisheries agreement in the Central Arctic Ocean. Alfred’s enthusiasm about the work made a big impression on her, and it was a huge loss to the organization, his community, and his family when he died last year.
In the upcoming months, Sofia plans to help foster the goals of Oceans North Kalaallit Nunaat by focusing on sustainability as a key principle, including working toward sustainable fisheries, reform of the Fishery Act, and collaboration with organizations and citizens in local communities.
Sustainable use of living resources is not an obstacle for a society but an investment, she said. “In this way, both local communities and the economy can benefit from the country’s resources for as long as possible.”
When she isn’t working, Sofia loves to hike and travel the world, activities that were halted by the Covid pandemic over the last two years. She also enjoys spending time with her nephew and nieces.
And she draws on lessons her mother taught her as she looks forward to the challenges of her new job. Her mother, who wasn’t able to get an education as the daughter of a hunter, instilled a love of learning and a strong work ethic in Sofia and her sisters.
“My mother always said, “If you can do it now, why wait?”” said Sofia.
Ruth Teichroeb is a regular contributor to Oceans North and former communications director. She is based in Seattle, Washington.