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(H) The delicate balance of aquatic ecosystems

In a conference held in Lugano on the 4th of September 1894, the ichthyologist Eugenio Bettoni pointed to the “pollution of public waters as a result of waste originating from industry” as one of the reasons for declining fish numbers in Lake Lugano.

At the time, new economic activities, increasing population and profound changes in land use were already beginning to upset the delicate balance of lake and river ecosystems in the region.

Subsequently, human activities have continued to exert an ever greater impact on the area. Several rivers have undergone devastating modifications to their channel as a result of the narrowing of their hydraulic sections, the construction of dams and other actions to regulate their flow.

Several streams have completely disappeared, replaced by rivulets which are often polluted by industrial and agricultural effluent or by urban sewer systems. Fortunately, however, significant progress has been made over the last few decades thanks to public water purification measures.

Nevertheless, it is undeniable that human activity has a serious impact on the environment and that local ichthyofauna is greatly depleted and endangered as a result.

Strong, effective environmental policy is required if the balance is to be restored. In this context, many cases are still open: take, for example, the disastrous situation of many rivers caused by constant fluctuations in their flow rates caused by their exploitation for hydroelectric power, the frenetic rush to build micro-hydropower stations, or the presence of fish-eating birds (such as cormorants, grey herons and grebes). Only firm policy direction and greater awareness on the part of citizens can provide long-term, credible solutions to the problems brought about by our affluent society.

This situation calls upon fishermen to act as watchful sentinels of the environment, the health of which they are among the first to benefit from, but at the same time among the first to pay the price for its imbalances.

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