Oceana to DENR and BFAR: Implement a temporary fishing ban on tawilis in Taal Lake

Press Release Date

January 30, 2019

Oceana Philippines is calling on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) jointly with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to impose a temporary fishing ban on tawilis in Taal Lake, to protect the species and save the livelihood of small fishers. Tawilis (Sardinella tawilis), the only freshwater sardine in the world and endemic only in Taal Lake, was recently declared as endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

"The Protected Area Management Board of Taal Volcano Protected Landscape has already endorsed seasonal closure of tawilis to give it time to reproduce. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) proposed a three-month fishing ban on tawilis since 2013. The DENR and BFAR must join forces to curb the major threats to the survival of tawilis and to ensure that there is sustainable management of this species,” said lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of Oceana Philippines, the largest international organization working exclusively to protect and restore the world’s oceans.

Ramos added that while seasonal closure will contribute to reviving the stock, it must be supported by other fisheries management measures to ensure long-term sustainability of the area, such as tight control on fish pens, regular monitoring of water quality, prevention of invasive species, and no-nonsense enforcement of environmental laws.  

Tawilis population has been in constant threat of overfishing from the use of active fishing gear, as well as from environmental pollution from fish cages in Taal Lake and the introduction of invasive species, such as tilapia and janitor fish. Harvest of this species has declined by about 49 percent in the last ten years.

"Demand for tawilis has driven the fish to near extinction and this must be carefully studied by both scientists and resource economists," said Ramos.

Pablo Rosales, Chairperson of the Progresibong Alyansa ng mga Mangingisda sa Pilipinas (PANGISDA-Pilipinas) said that the overfishing of tawilis can addressed by regulating the fishing activities of commercial fishers.

“The ban must focus on the commercial fishing sector. Their boats are large, and their gears are very efficient, so they catch majority of the stocks. At the same time, municipal fishers are also displaced, and left with lesser catch,” Rosales added.

Rosales said that illegal fishers in Taal Lake which operate without licenses and use destructive gears, and establishments which cause marine pollution in the area must also be held accountable.

Rosales supports Oceana in urging the adoption of a national management framework to sustainably utilize and manage all sardine species in the country.

Data from the National Stock Assessment Program (NSAP) show that aside from tawilis, other sardine species which are harvested in the ocean such as Sardinella lemuru and Sardinella gibbosa, or more commonly known as tamban, tuloy, and tabagak are also overfished.

“There's an urgent need to implement a science-based sardine management framework that will address issues on the overfishing of sardines, regulate the catch of juveniles, and allow sardine stocks to spawn and reproduce. The continuous encroachment of commercial fishers in municipal waters must also be addressed,” Ramos said.

Oceana also welcomed the stoppage of production and voluntary withdrawal of tawilis products of certain companies in the market. "This goes only to show that the business sector is open to integrating sustainability as a corporate philosophy and is a much-lauded move," added Ramos. 

Location: Manila, Philippines
Contact: Mar Guidote (mguidote@oceana.org)