Florida Museum of Natural History

Sawfish Research at the Florida Program for Shark Research

Sawfish Research

The Florida Program for Shark Research is initiating a one year sawfish sampling program within the Indian River Lagoon and Banana River (Florida) to address population numbers and movement patterns. The Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Plan has identified the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) as an area critical to the recovery of this once widespread species. Historically the IRL was an important area for the species, but locally intensive fishing mortality and habitat loss and modification have resulted in greatly diminished numbers appearing in catches over the past century.

Sawfish captured during the survey period will be tagged with conventional tags and then released. Sawfish will also be tagged with acoustic tags to determine habitat use and movement patterns within the region using passive telemetry techniques. Adult sawfish will be tagged with satellite tags, which will provide insight into the habitat preferences of sawfish within Florida waters and characterize possible post-release mortality.

This research initiative will result in a basic survey of the current status of the endangered smalltooth sawfish in this region. It is also an important component of a long-term monitoring program using standardized stations and methods to document the anticipated recovery of the species within the Indian River Lagoon region. Furthermore, this project will provide identification and characterization of critical habitats which is an essential element of the Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Plan.

Funding for this research has been kindly provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce/National Marine Fisheries Service/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration