EDITORIAL - Endangered tawilis
(The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2019 - 12:00am

Taal Lake is a popular research area for aquatic experts. It’s a lake that surrounds an island with a volcano that has been inactive for a long time and could be extinct. Within the island is another crater lake with the world’s smallest volcano, the highly active Taal.

The volcanic crater lake receives injections of deep hydrothermal water during volcanic activity, producing a unique water chemistry. The black volcanic lake bottom, which does not reflect sunlight, allows a special type of algae to thrive and serve as feed for the fish species in the lake. The extraordinary ecosystem turns ordinary talakitok, a species of trevally, into delectable maliputo. And the lake is home to the tasty freshwater herring or bombon sardine, locally called tawilis, the only freshwater sardine in the world.

Now experts have warned that overfishing is threatening the existence of tawilis. The same calamity has occurred in Bicol’s Lake Buhi in Camarines Sur, where the tiny goby or sinarapan has all but disappeared.

In the case of tawilis, the alarm may have been sounded early enough to save the fish from extinction. Fisheries officials are considering a moratorium on the harvesting of tawilis from the lake, for a period that will allow the fish to teem once again.

Those who make a living out of fishing in the lake have expressed concern about the planned moratorium. There are other commercial fish species that can be harvested in the lake, however, and ensuring the long-term survival of tawilis should prove beneficial for the fishing communities.

While efforts are underway to save the tawilis, fisheries officials should also consider reducing the number of fish pens and tightening regulation of fish species in the lake. Certain predatory commercial species introduced for fish pen propagation in the lake are said to be threatening the maliputo.

This lake is a unique national heritage. Residents in the surrounding communities should consider themselves as custodians of the lake and should support every effort to ensure the sustainability of the treasures of Taal.

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