Jennifer Price - Marisa Villarreal

Tracking Aquaculture Stakeholders on the Road in Chile

Sometimes, everything lines up right. Jennifer Price and Marisa Villarreal were fortunate that the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), client for their Master’s Group Project on the bioeconomics of aquaculture in southern Chile, also provided funds to travel to Chile for internships.

Marisa Villarreal (right) and Jennifer Price (center) join their translator (left) and members of a fishing village (back) for a trip up an fishing inlet on Chiloé Island.

Price and Villarreal spent last summer working in Chile, couch-surfing, traveling (mostly by bus) to gather information and perspectives from stakeholders, and spending time with fellow group members Willow Battista, John Ellis, Kelsey Jacobsen, and Lindsey Kaplan, who came for a shorter time. They visited eight cities, from Santiago in the north to Punta Arenas and the Patagonia region, in the far south.

“We went to get a comprehensive idea of the industry and the experts in it, who are spread out all over,” says Villarreal. “We met with people from labor, tourism, government, artisanal fishermen, and conservation groups.”

“WCS gave us a list of stakeholders, and then we set up meetings, all in Spanish,” says Price, noting that they sometimes struggled with Chilean Spanish, which has lots of slang and is spoken quickly and with an unfamiliar accent.

“The days were a hodgepodge,” says Villarreal. “We stayed in places for a week at a time and spent a lot of time orienting ourselves: finding bus routes and directions and making sure we didn’t miss anyone.”

“We felt pressure to impress our client and make a difference,” says Price. “Talking to people who were impacted by aquaculture inspired us to do our best so we’d have a Group Project that would be useful to our client and the region. It was an amazing experience, if a little overwhelming.”

“It was interesting and a little exhausting at the same time,” says Villarreal, “and so valuable for our project.”

“I don’t think I could have done same project without the trip,” adds Price. “A year ago, Patagonia wasn’t on my radar as a place to go to, but I was just blown away and would highly recommend going there.”