Taal Lake's Tawilis now on list of endangered species

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 24) — Freshwater sardines Tawilis, which can only be found in Philippines' Taal Lake, is now an endangered species, a research found.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said Tawilis or "sardinella tawilis" is in danger of facing extinction.

It noted there has been a steady decline in the catch of the commercial fish since 1998 due to overfishing, illegal use of active fishing gears, increasing use of fish cages, and the deterioration of the water quality in Taal Lake located in Batangas.

The international organization added that the harvest of Tawilis, the only known freshwater sardinella in the world, has declined by at least 50 percent over the past 10 years. Tawilis is popularly served to tourists in restaurants in Tagaytay City, which is near Taal Lake.

"Fishing effort using illegal gears which target this species in the lake is increasing... So it is inferred that the population has declined, which qualifies it for 'Endangered' criterion," the research found.

IUCN added, "With an increase in effort, it is likely that the population is declining faster than the catch, and we therefore infer that the population has declined by at least 50 percent."

It said there is an ongoing threat to Tawilis due to overexploitation, pollution, habitat degradation, and competition with other species in the lake. It added the lake is being polluted with aquaculture feeds, domestic waste, and unmanaged tourism of Taal Lake.

It warned the Tawilis may face total extinction. From endangered, it may become critically endangered, then "extinct in the wild," then completely extinct.

IUCN urged the management of the area to conserve the endangered specie endemic to the Philippines.

The study was conducted in February 28, 2017 and published in 2018.

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said there will be a reserved area for Tawilis in Taal Lake, where only traditional and passive fishing methods are allowed. It is also assessing Tawilis stocks to determine its spawning areas.

CNN Philippines correspondent Carolyn Bonquin contributed to this report.