A little known fact brought to light as the Taal volcano explosion unfolds: tawilis (Sardinella tawilis), the only freshwater sardine in the world evolved from a family of migrating saltfish trapped during the 1754 explosion of Taal Volcano.
But as Taal Volcano remains at alert level 4, tawilis along with other aquatic species are at risk, said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). In a radio interview, BFAR Calabarzon Regional Director Sammy Malvas said the agency is expecting the worse for fish pens in Taal Lake as harsh conditions brought about by the change in acidity and temperature can be fatal to fishes.
Estimates by BFAR put at least 6,000 fish cages at risk of being damaged with a production loss of over 15,000 metric tons.[READ: Tawilis is now endangered after years of exploitation of Taal Lake]
Apart from tawilis, which was previously listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in 2018, the lake is mostly inhabited by freshwater tilapia and maliputo or giant trevally.
A resident scrapes mud off his boat, as restive Taal Volcano continues to spew ash. | @maricarcincoINQ pic.twitter.com/9AhgYPzSYX
— Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet) January 12, 2020
BFAR said that these fishes can withstand effects of climate change and other threats but these sudden changes in temperature together with rising sulfur levels in the waters may prove to be fatal.
The agency has yet to return to survey the lake as Taal Volcano is still at alert level 4.
Fisherfolks were quick to harvest from their pens prior to the orders for evacuation, with a go signal from the Department of Agriculture, who is providing loans for owners of affected fish pens.
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Writer: CHRISTIAN SAN JOSE
ART TRICIA GUEVARRA