Taal Lake tawilis faces extinction

- Arnell Ozaeta -
LIPA CITY — Fisherfolk in Taal Lake warned the government of the proliferation of illegal fishing boats that use a destructive method that threatens local marine life and could push into extinction the tawilis, which only thrives in the waters of the crater lake.

Milagros Chavez, president of Kilusan ng mga Maliliit na Mangingisda sa Lawa ng Taal (KMMLT), denounced the proliferation of suro, an illegal and destructive fishing method using fine mesh nets mounted on metal or bamboo frames that are attached to the bow of the boat and used to scour the bottom of the lake.

is the Tagalog word for scouring or scrubbing.

"Suro boats catch tawilis and everything as they roam around Taal Lake every night, which is considered very destructive," Chavez said.

The KMMLT lamented that the destructive fishing method is a major threat to
the ecology of Taal Lake because it also catches the small fingerlings of the tawilis and other marine species in the lake.

Efforts have been intensified by different groups, including KMMLT, to preserve the rich biodiversity of Taal Lake, which boasts of unique species like the tawilis and maliputo, another popular freshwater fish.

She said that despite the approval of Provincial Ordinance No.4 and even local municipal ordinances banning the use of suro nets in Taal Lake, many illegal fishermen from Talisay town continue to use the destructive fishing method.

Taal Lake and the volcano island were declared as a protected area in 1996.

"Weak implementation of the law and the strong political connection with local officials of (illegal fishing) operators are the main reasons why suro is still in operation despite the numerous fishing laws and ordinances in the lake," Chavez added

She said the proliferation of suro is destroying the livelihood of more than 4,000 small fishermen that use traditional nets and fishing methods in Taal Lake.

The catch of a suro boat in one night is equivalent to the volume of fish that a small fisherman catches in a year, she said.

The vigilance of the KMMLT and various concerned government agencies, however, managed to reduce the number of suros in Taal Lake from 50 boats to only seven All the remaining suros from Talisay, however, continue to ravage the lake.

"Sadly, the local government of Talisay has persistently ignored the plight of the small fishermen by continuously allowing the operators (of suro boats) to sail out every night," claimed Chavez.

She vowed to continue the struggle for the immediate enforcement of the total ban on suro and other illegal and destructive fishing methods in the lake.

Chavez called on the fisherfolk to join the fight against illegal fishing and become members of the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), a joint government-private group that manages the lake.

"We are asking all the heads of lakeshore municipalities and cities to enforce the law and to bring to a halt all destructive fishing methods in Taal Lake," said Chavez.

KMMLT is the biggest federation of small fishermen operating in Taal Lake with chapters from the towns of Agoncillo, Alitagtag, Balete, Cuenca, Laurel, Mataas-na-Kahoy, Sta. Teresita and the city of Tanauan

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