Sardinella tawilis is an endemic species associated with socio-cultural experiences in coastal barangays around Lake Taal in Batangas, Philippines. Tawilis is a small freshwater sardine reaching up to 15 centimeters and weighing less than 30 grams. Tawilis has a compressed body with a belly covered in scutes, having a single dorsal fin and forked caudal fin. It has long gill rakers as it feeds on planktons as it swims. Currently, tawilis enjoys the conservation mechanisms of Taal Volcano Protected Landscape.
In 2018, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classified the Sardinella tawilis as endangered (EN) due to both anthropogenic threats and natural hazards. Escalation of conservation status to IUCN red list was due to high exploitation rate, natural hazards such as volcanic eruption and sulfur upwelling, water quality deterioration, and predation by invasive alien species. Fish landed catch surveys declined from 1,420 mt to 460 mt between the period of 1996 to 2011 (Mutia et.al, 2011). The catch per unit effort for small fisherfolk’s gill nets, which represents 53% of the total gear used in the lake, declined from 11 kg/day to 4 kg/day from 1997 to 2011.
The Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of TVPL had set species-specific conservation measures including the implementation of the Tawilis Seasonal Closure [Pahinga sa Pananawilis]. The closed season is an annual rest or ban on tawilis fishing from March 1- April 30 to give way for the tawilis’ spawning season.
The first two years of Tawilis Seasonal Closure has been a challenge as inertia from affected tawilis-specific fisherfolk and tawilis-serving hospitality businesses were felt from the ground. Awareness gaps on tawilis and the protected area conservation add to the challenges of implementing conservation measures. Conservation-related messages have not reached or targeted regular tawilis consumers. Regular and potential consumers in both local community and tourism consciously and/or unconsciously violate the closure as they can’t relate or fully comprehend the species conservation measures and its positive implications. Consumption drivers include food security, cultural and spiritual concerns, and culinary tourism experience.
Results and Discussion
Approach used in this action research was Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC). SBCC is a process of interactively communicating with individuals, stakeholders and communities as part of a program of information dissemination, motivation, problem solving and planning (Center of SBCC, 2022). This approach also adapts a Socio-Ecological Model (SEM) that recognizes the relationship between people and their environment to identify leverage points to influence individual and/or community behaviors and perceptions. SBCC applications include reduction of demand and/or promote desired conservation/consumer behaviors.
Survey from households in different municipalities inside the protected area shows 68% of the participants are aware of the seasonal closure and 71% are compliant with the temporary tawilis-fishing ban. Awareness on the tawilis reserve areas (TRAs) scores lowest among the communities at 18% of the participants. Unaware and not fully aware criteria include non-compliance to the seasonal closure, confusion or unsurety of the exact months of the seasonal closure, unable to name TRA locations and unaware of the reasons behind the conservation measures.
Beliefs and perceptions also surrounding tawilis were captured by the survey and interviews. Main reasons for non-compliance [violation] of the seasonal closure among surveyed fisherfolk households are mainly for food and household income security.
The research also produced knowledge products based on the results and implemented the Pahinga ng Tawilis campaign which detailed results and a toolkit on SBCC for tawilis conservation was produced to aid the academic institutions, local government units, and tawilis stakeholders (in creative commons, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Int’).
Project 210527300 location - Philippines, Asia