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Chile: Tsunami Strikes Juan Fernández Islands

Another Chilean island territory, the Juan Fernández Islands located closer to the Chilean coast at a distance of 667 km, was not spared from the effects of the waves caused by the powerful earthquake. Due to their closer proximity, there are confirmed reports of destruction and deaths caused by a tsunami. Many are reporting that residents were not warned with ample enough time and as a result were unable to evacuate to higher ground. A chilean TV report:





Together with our partner Slow Food International, we have decided to reallocate the project funds for the reconstruction of Robinson Crusoe island. Upon this background the initially intended project is not yet implemented:


Improving artisanal fisheries and ecotourism development

Partner: Slow Food international, Sindicato de Pescadores Artesanales del Archipiélago Juan Fernández (STIPA)

Participants: Coastal fishermen of Sindicato de Pescadores Artesanales del Archipiélago Juan Fernández

Ecology: Safeguarding unique marine ecosystems with many endemic species

Economy: Introducing sustainable fisheries methods and alternative livelihood

Social: Strengthening the community and culturel values


  • Raising awareness
  • Introducing sustainable fishing techniques
  • Trainings on fisheries management
  • Training on sustainable tourism principles
  • Diversifying sources of income
  • Developing gastronomical and trading infrastructure
  • Supporting international marketing of regional products

It takes two and a half hours by plane from Santiago, half an hour on foot, and an hour by boat to reach the lone tiny village on the island of Robinson Crusoe in the Juan Fernandez archipelago, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The name of this island is linked to the incredible adventures of Alexander Selkirk, made legendary in Daniel Defoe’s novel, and somehow the island still retains an evocative atmosphere.


Fishing lobsters, from 1st October to 14th May, with trampas, rectangular traps made of wood.
The sea bream (Cheilodactylus gayi), a fish with fine white flesh.

Landing on the airstrip is an adventure in itself, as the plane coasts to a stop in a desert-like landscape. In the distance the plaintive cries of gulls and seals can be heard as they float serenely in the water. A boat takes you round to the other side of the island into a lush world of woods, streams and pastures reminiscent of high altitude meadows. 83% of animal and plant species on this island are indigenous, including native species of seaweed, birds and mammals and, in particular, fish and shellfish. Goats and wild rabbits live in inland areas and a few cattle are farmed, but the real life on the island is found in the sea.


Almost all the island’s inhabitants have fished for a living for at least three centuries. The most celebrated catch, which dates back to at least the XVIII century, is the local rock lobster. This species, Jasus frontalis, is found only here and in the waters of the Desventuradas Islands of San Felix and Sant’Ambrosio, a three-hour boat trip to the north. These lobsters are caught at a depth of 2 to 200 meters by lowering rectangular traps made by the fishermen from the branches of the local maqui tree. Until a few years ago the traps would be lifted by hand; a small motor is now used - the only concession to innovation.


The small wooden boats are based on the design of old whaling ships and have historically been built on the island by the Chamorro family. Lobster fishing on Robinson Crusoe Island is only allowed between October and mid-May and the specimens caught must be at least 12 to 14 years old.


The waters of the island have many other species of interesting fish, mollusks and shellfish of gastronomic interest, such as the red crab (Chaceon chilensis), which is caught at a depth of five to six hundred meters using the same wooden cages as the rock lobster, the black sea urchin (Aspidodiadema microtuberculatum), and the sea bream (Cheilodactylus gayi), a fish with fine white flesh, the trevally (Pseudocaranx chilensis) and the yellowtail amberjack (Seriola lalandi), both caught with a very long hook called an espinel. There are many fish, mollusks and shellfish of gastronomic interest found in the waters around the islands, but only the rock lobster has been used to date. Excellent fish such as the sea bream are simply used as bait.


Slow Food has been working since 2005 for the creation of an artisan structure for the production of local fisheries that use sustainable methods and also employ the women of the island. At the same time Slow Food Foundation will continue to support the local fishermen's union, named STIPA, in their struggle against the large groups of industrial fisheries to expand the protected marine area to 20 miles around the island.


Activities of the project

  • Implementation of a sea products-processing laboratory: since the beginning of the 80’s the local variety of lobster has always been strongly exploited by the fishermen of the island. One of the reasons is that they don’t have the right equipment for the sea products processing other than the one for the lobsters;
  • Training on sustainable fishing methods for the marine conservation and biodiversity management, and the quality and legality of the products on the market. A Slow Food consultant will hold the training;
  • Training on sustainable tourism principles: in order to capitalize the income and the employment opportunities linked with the tourism development, it is crucial to give value to the eco-conscious tourism and increase the environmental quality consumption. STIPA will be trained on the sustainable management policy of its territory;
  • Implementation of a restaurant that will be managed by STIPA staff: since in the whole Archipelago there’s no restaurants close to the Robinson Crusoe Island harbour, STIPA has decided to open a place where sea products are prepared according to the oldest traditional recipe of the islands;
  • Creation of a small-scale business unit to sell high quality sea products managed by STIPA staff for consumers such as tourists and island’s inhabitants;
  • STIPA website design Archipielago Juan Fernández: one of the Presidium project’s aim is spreading through the official website of STIPA topics such as sustainable fishing in the Archipelago, ecotourism, costal protected areas. The website will be translated in three languages (Spanish, English and Italian).
The office of STIPA and Slow Food Convivium.

Participation of a food community delegation to Terra Madre-Salone del Gusto 2010 in Italy

Terra Madre is a project conceived by Slow Food, and brings together food producers and workers from around the world, giving them the opportunity to discuss the major themes of food production. Together they share and compare the diverse and complex issues that underlie what “high-quality food” means to them: issues of environmental resources and planetary equilibrium, and aspects of taste, worker dignity, and consumer safety. Terra Madre meeting is held with Salone del Gusto, the public international Slow Food event that promotes all “good, clean and fair” food practices, and that attracted 180.000 visitors over the last edition. During the Salone del Gusto days some selected food communities present and offer their products for tasting, increasing their value on the international market.


Elaboration of communication support material (brochures, publication etc.) about the food community’s activities for Salone del Gusto/Terra Madre

The communication materials will be used for information and education campaign to promote sustainable fishing practices and consumption.





The Juan Fernández Islands are a sparsely inhabited island group reliant on tourism and fishing in the South Pacific Ocean, situated about 667 km off the coast of Chile, and is composed of several volcanic islands: