Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 205–217 | Cite as

Livelihood trajectories in the Chilean Patagonian region: an ethnographic approach to coastal and marine socioecological change

  • María Amalia Mellado
  • Gustavo Blanco-WellsEmail author
  • Laura Nahuelhual
  • Gonzalo Saavedra
Original Article


Livelihood trajectories are a conceptual device to synthetize the collection of successive strategies displayed by individuals and groups to ensure survival and wellbeing over time. Using this concept, we conduct an explorative analysis of how various episodes, interventions, and ecological change have influenced different livelihood strategies of small-scale fishermen in the southernmost region of the world, the Patagonian region of Magallanes, Chile. Through ethnographic research, we identified four trajectories along five distinct periods: (i) 1960–1972, from the year of the largest recorded earthquake in world history to the initial expansion of industrial fishing; (ii) 1973–1982, from the military coup and the beginning of neoliberal reforms; (iii) 1983–1990, marked by fishing export booms; (iv) 1991–2000, noted by return to democracy and enactment of the first Fishing and Aquaculture General Act; and (v) 2000 to present, characterized by coastal planning and changes to the aforementioned law. Along these periods, trajectories are marked by migration waves and the deployment of specific livelihood strategies, highly modulated by both global seafood markets and legal changes. The results show the potential of ethnographic approaches to the study of long-term interactions in marine and coastal socioecological systems by identifying underlying historical dynamics, specific pulses and pressures, and actors’ responses to regional socioecological changes.


Southern Patagonia Subantarctic region Small-scale fisheries Human communities Coastal livelihoods Socioecological change 


Funding information

This work has been funded by the Centro de Investigación Dinámica de Ecosistemas Marinos de Altas Latitudes, IDEAL (FONDAP 15150003).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Investigación Dinámica de Ecosistemas Marinos de Altas Latitudes (IDEAL)ValdiviaChile
  2. 2.Escuela de Graduados de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas. Magister en Desarrollo a Escala Humana y Economía EcológicaUniversidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile
  3. 3.Instituto de Historia y Ciencias SocialesUniversidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile
  4. 4.Centro de Ciencias del Clima y la ResilienciaSantiagoChile
  5. 5.Instituto de Economía AgrariaUniversidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile
  6. 6.Instituto de Estudios AntropológicosUniversidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile

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