Sawfish Granted Endangered Species Protection

by Holly Bourbon, Curator of Fishes

Published June 25, 2013

Earlier this month, the National Marine Fisheries Services granted sawfish protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

largetooth sawfish

Sawfish are one of the most, if not the most, imperiled groups of cartilaginous fish. Like most sharks and rays,  late maturity and low reproduction rates make these animals vulnerable to over-exploitation. Additionally, their toothed "saw" often gets caught in fishing gear and nets, making them susceptible to bycatch. As a result of these threats, populations of sawfish have reportedly declined by as much as 99 percent in recent decades.

All seven recognized species of sawfish are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  Nationally however, earlier petitions to grant sawfish similar protection under the ESA have not been successful. The first listing, of the smalltooth sawfish, occurred in April of 2003. The largetooth sawfish was listed under the ESA in August of 2011. With the freshwater and largetooth species recently being synonymized, all are now protected under the ESA, including the two living here at the Aquarium.

largetooth sawfish

One of the largetooth sawfish that live in our Shark Alley exhibit.

The designation to list all species of sawfish is a positive step forward for these animals. The hope is that through collaboration with other aquariums, research biologists, conservation groups and NGOs we can assist in the recovery of sawfish populations worldwide.

 

Previous Post

Featured Stories

Atlantic puffin chick born at the National Aquarium Meet Our Trio of Puffin Chicks!

We are excited to welcome three new Atlantic puffin chicks to our Sea Cliffs exhibit!

Read the full story

Sawfish swimming in Shark Alley Sawfish Need Love, Too!

Shark Week may be over, but these residents of our Shark Alley exhibit need some time in the spotlight!

Read the full story

Related Stories

Endangered Species Day

Published May 18, 2018

Species Spotlight: Pallid Sturgeon

Published January 26, 2018