The Case of the Lagoon of Venice
The Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei series on Economics, the Environment and Sustainable Development
Edited by Anna Alberini, Paolo Rosato and Margherita Turvani
Anna Alberini, Paolo Rosato and Margherita Turvani The Lagoon of Venice is a unique wildlife habitat and recreational site, and has been a World Heritage site since 1987. Its fisheries have provided sustenance to generations of residents of the city of Venice and of the surrounding region. To the founders of Venice, the Lagoon had a special strategic significance, and the Republic of Venice – the Serenissima – was well aware of the importance of preserving and managing this natural resource carefully. In an effort to protect the fish stocks, for example, laws were passed that prohibited harvesting fish smaller than a certain size. Rivers were diverted to reduce sedimentation and regulate the depth of the Lagoon waters. As a result, the Lagoon’s shallow waters protected the Republic of Venice from its enemies for one thousand years, making the city inaccessible from the sea and the mainland. The Lagoon of Venice is a complex system where ecological and socioeconomic dimensions have co-evolved over time: the delicate and complicated interrelationships between water quality and movement, coastline, flora, fauna, and human health and wealth constitute an interrelated whole where any modification or disruption tends to affect many and diverse components of the ecological system, settlements and groups of people. Clearly, the Lagoon has experienced a variety of natural and anthropic stimuli over the centuries. In recent decades, these stimuli have included agricultural pesticides and fertilizers runoff, hazardous wastes leachate and contaminated sediments from the chemical complex at Marghera and the industrial developments of the...