First the ground shook; then a nine-foot wall of water slammed into the tiny fishing villages lining the Chilean coast. Most had the chance to run for the hills, yet over 250 people were swept out to sea. As the survivors found their way back to their villages in the predawn light, many found their homes, stores, warehouses, and boats –– their livelihoods –– destroyed.
This tragic scene was the reality for the 80,000 fishermen and their families living along the Chilean coast on the morning of February 27, 2010, when a magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck the central-south zone of Chile. The resulting tsunami pounded 600 kilometers of coast for the next two hours. Boats were found 400 meters from the coastline. The thousands of artisanal fisherman who make their living from the sea, and who produce 47% of the country’s artisanal catch, lost everything. According to a study done in part by Greengrants advisor, Stefan Gelcich, over 17,000 pieces of fishing and diving gear, including boats, nets, and engines, were damaged or destroyed by the tsunami.