Tawilis, or known scientifically as sardinella tawilis, the only freshwater sardine fish in the world—found in Taal, Batangas and had been a consistent favorite in the locality’s cuisine, is now placed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on the list of endangered species.
IUCN cited the threats to the survival of Tawilis, namely: “overexploitation, pollution and competition and/or predation with introduced fishes.”
The union also had taken note other factors which include: “overfishing, illegal use of active fishing gears such as motorized push net and ring net, proliferation of fish cages, and deterioration of water quality.”
Dr. Mudjekeewis Santos of National Academy of Science and Technology said that the fish had been assessed as ‘endangered’. “Ibig sabihin, it’s a step closer na pwede na siyang maging extinct,” he said.
Santos pointed out that it is not yet there—the tawilis as extinct, however, he cried that this should be a moment of realization. “Wag na sana nating paabutin na maging critically endangered by doing nothing. May pag-asa, may management na ginawa. Pero to us, it’s a wake-up call.
The study stated that this species significantly declined since 1998. A decline in harvest was about 49% over the last decade.
This sardine species can only be found in Taal Lake, Batangas. Major eruptions of Taal Volcano in the 18th century sealed the lake from the sea, eventually leading its waters to become fresh water. Tawilis is one of a few marine species trapped within the lake that have evolved into purely freshwater species.
The IUCN further recommended that the Philippine government consider Taal Lake as one of its high priorities for conservation.