By Ellalyn de Vera Ruiz
A local fisherfolk group urged the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to regulate fishpen structures instead of imposing fishing ban on Sardinella tawilis following reports that the only freshwater sardine in the world is already being threatened with extinction.
“Instead of comprehensively and holistically addressing the shortage of tawilis, (BFAR) Director (Eduardo) Gongona is resorting to a futile solution that will obviously put the livelihood of small fisherfolk at stake,” Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) national chairperson Fernando Hicap said.
“We reiterate that it’s the unsustainable aquaculture practices in Taal Lake, such as unregulated expansion of fishpens that cause such kind of ecological imbalance,” he added.
Based on a study of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), tawilis is now endangered due to overfishing, illegal use of active fishing gears, proliferation of fish cages, and deterioration of water quality.
Hicap said fish pen structures that culture bioinvasive fish species do not only pollute and decongest the lake, but “pave way for an invasive fish species to takeover the population of native species like Tawilis by preying on them.”
Pamalakaya pointed out that there are around 5,000 aquaculture structures operating in Taal Lake, despite the lake’s only 2,342 hectares carrying capacity for aquaculture.
“Even if you restrict small fishers from catching Tawilis for a long period of time, as long as fishpen structures continue to pollute and expand to way beyond the lake’s carrying capacity, Tawilis and other native species in Taal Lake won’t last a day,” Hicap said.
“We call on the BFAR to address this issue fair and square by investigating the irregularities and unsustainable practices of aquaculture owners in Taal Lake. Fish ban will never be the solution to any shortage but will only worsen the suffering of small fishers,” he added.