The Tawilis Summit 2019 with the theme: “4TS: Talakayan Tungkol sa Tawilis at Taal” was held on February 19, 2019 at the University of Sto. Tomas, España, Manila. The whole day event targeted to inform the public about the rationale and other related researches about the Sardinella Tawilis and Taal Lake. The summit provided the venue for stakeholders to discuss the current status and future management prescriptions to conserve the Tawilis population. Tawilis is the only freshwater sardine and can only be found in Taal Lake.
According to a study of Reproductive Biology of the Tawilis done by Associate Professor Alicia Pagulayan, “Sardinella Tawilis breeds the whole year round with peak spawning activities from December to March and a less pronounced spawning during the months of July to October”.
A study about the Tawilis fishery reserves and spawning grounds were discussed by Dr. Ma. Theresa Mutia. Both studies done by Prof. Pagulayan and Dr. Mutia showed the same results on the most active spawning months, which is March to April.
Dr. Mudjekeewis Santos, explained the assessment of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) of the Tawilis as an endangered species. Dr. Santos disclosed that the goal of the IUCN is to “provide knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together.” One tool that the IUCN provides is the Red List of Threatened Species. The goal of the Red List is “to provide information and analyses on the status, trends and threats to species in order to inform and catalyze action for biodiversity conservation”.
Santos also said that as early as 2011, there is already a paper published depicting the depletion of the Tawilis. He said that every time an animal goes endangered, “we did not do enough and we are failing”.
Threats for the Tawilis include overfishing, pollution, invasive fish species, fish kills, habitat modification, invasive planktons, climate change-related impacts and unsustainable fishing practice.
On the other hand, the home of the Tawilis, Taal Lake, was discussed by Dr. Rey Donne Papa. He said that it is a tropical caldera lake, with an active Volcano and has intensive Aquaculture with very little scientific data. Dr. Papa also said that the changes and improvements in Taxonomy of the lake, the introduced and invasive species, the impact of Aquaculture and climate change makes the Taal Lake worthy to be studied again and again.
Atty. Maria Paz Luna, Regional Executive Director of Department of Natural Resources, shared that the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape (TVPL) Management Plan has undergone public consultations, a task force has been created, a revised plan has been drafted and has an active Protected Area Management Board (PAMB). Despite these, there are challenges due to increasing population and the absence of sewerage and septage systems in the Municipalities and Cities surrounding it. To add to that, there are illegal discharges of livestock farms that drain to the lake. She continued on discussing the penalties and fines under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act which may be served to violators. RED Luna highlighted that if the PAMB so decides, their decision has to be followed.
Tawilis harvested by fisherfolk for subsistence is allowed
(Her full speech may be accessed here: https://www.facebook.com/PhilippineSymposiumonFreshwater/videos/2350556145173561/ )
Dr. Francis Magbanua, President of the Philippine Society for Freshwater Science (PSFS) stated their support regarding the declaration of the Tawilis as an endangered species. In summary, the society supports the ordinance issued by the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) to implement the closed season of Taal Lake during March to April, including the implementation of a proper mesh size and establishment of sanctuaries.
Dr. Magbanua also emphasized the need for enforcement in the area. He reminded that not only it is a job for the DENR and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), but also for the Local Government Units and other stakeholders. He also called for the need for continuous monitoring of the Tawilis and the lake to see if the implementation is successful.