This article investigates recent reforms of the Greenland coastal fisheries in order to contribute to the general lessons on reform and policy networks in the context of a changing Arctic stakeholdership. It analyses participation in fisheries governance decision-making by examining the emergence of discourses and policy networks that come to define the very need for reform. A policy network is identified across state ministries, powerful officials, banks and large scale industry that defined the need for fisheries reform within a ‘grand reform’ discourse. But inertia characterised the actual decision-making process as reform according to this ‘grand reform’ discourse was blocked by a combination of small-scale fishers’ informal networks and the power of the parliamentary majority. After a parliamentary shift in power the new government implemented the ‘grand reform’ gradually whilst new patterns of participation and exclusion emerged. In this process, the identities of the participating participants were reinterpreted to fit the new patterns of influence and participation. The article argues that fishery reform does not necessarily start with the collective recognition of a problem in marine resource use and a power-neutral process of institutional learning. Instead, it argues that fishery reform is likely to be the ‘reform of somebody’ and that this ‘somebody’ is itself a changing identity.