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Philippines

Taal Lake

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Conservation benefit: 2,471-acre fish sanctuary

Community benefit: Repair of storm-damaged Taal Lake Conservation Center

Date Approved: 02.2015

River/Lake

This project protects freshwater habitat around a river or lake.

Beautiful Taal Lake, which fills a large caldera, was once part of the ocean. But over hundreds of years, volcanic eruptions cut the lake off from the South China Sea. Its unique history makes the lake home to many endemic species, including the tawilis, a freshwater sardine that greatly contributes to the local economy and food supply. Overfishing and the introduction of invasive species threaten many local species. Particularly damaging are the Nile tilapia, which escaped from fishpens during the 1980s, the Chinese soft-shelled turtle, and the jaguar guapote (a cichlid fish native to Central America).

An organization of small-scale fisherfolk, KMMLT, has spearheaded efforts to sustainably manage Taal’s resources. In 2009, a 2,471-acre (1,000-hectare) fish sanctuary was established, and the KMMLT has actively supported it through regular patrols. Aware that fishing alone will not support the economy, the organization trains members in alternative livelihoods, such as beekeeping and ecotourism. Training takes place at the Taal Lake Conservation Center.

The group has committed to protect the fish sanctuary for at least 10 more years. In return, Seacology is funding repairs to the conservation center’s kitchen and roof, which Typhoon Glenda damaged in 2014. The grant will also pay for the installation of solar panels.

Project Updates

February 2020

Our project partners were among the many people forced to evacuate due to a large explosion of the Taal volcano. We’re working to obtain more details, but have confirmed that the leaders of our local partner organization are safe and that the project site was not damaged.

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December 2017

Duane Silverstein and Program Assistant Christina Oraftik visited Taal Lake in December. They report that the conservation center is in great repair, and that the solar panels, rain catchment system, and fish dryer are all working well. Tour boats dock directly in front, and the center sells local products such as honey, liqueur made from local citrus (calamansi), and kombucha. Members of the fishing cooperative patrol the fish sanctuary daily. The lake still suffers from sewage pollution, illegal fishing (often by people with political connections), and runoff from development. The community is trying to get the lake declared a Ramsar wetland of international significance.

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April 2016

Repairs to the conservation center at Taal Lake, badly damaged by Typhoon Glenda, are now complete. The center got a new roof, solar panels, rainwater catchment system, and kitchen. The center serves the community with alternative livelihood training and environmental education, and the fish sanctuary is being respected.

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November 2015

Seacology’s Philippines field representative, Ferdie Marcelo, visited Taal Lake this month and reports that much progress has been made. The roof of the Taal Lake Convention Center (TLCC) has been repaired. The rainwater catchment system has been completed and is being used, and work has been started on a backup system. A solar power system has been installed and is being used for the TLCC. The fish sanctuary continues to be respected.

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May 2015

Repair and improvement of the conservation center has begun. Most, if not all, of the fisherfolk in the lake are members of the KMMLT and are respecting the fish sanctuary, knowing that the sardine unique to the lake needs this area to reproduce and grow. So far, no violations have been reported.

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