Florida Museum of Natural History

Sawfish Implementation Team: March 2011 Meeting

Sawfish Images

Smalltooth Sawfish Implementation Team Meeting: March 29-30, 2011

On March 29 and 30, 2011 the Smalltooth Sawfish Implementation Team met in Everglades City, Florida to discuss current research and management actions regarding sawfish in the United States. The smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) is listed as an endangered species in the United States under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA requires that NOAA Fisheries develop and implement recovery plans for the conservation and survival of listed species. Such plans are to include: (1) a description of site-specific management actions necessary to conserve the species or populations; (2) objective, measurable criteria which, when met, will allow the species or populations to be removed from the endangered and threatened species list; and (3) estimates of the time and funding required to achieve the plan's goals and intermediate steps. NOAA Fisheries assembled a Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Team comprised of researchers, managers and representatives from constituent groups to develop a recovery plan for the U.S. population of smalltooth sawfish. The recovery plan was subsequently published in January 2009. The Implementation Team continues to meet every year since the Team'sfirst meeting in November 2003 to discuss current research and management concerns regarding the species.

The workshop was held at the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve headquarters in Everglades City, Florida and featured participants from NMFS, Florida FWC, researchers, and non-governmental organizations. Dr. Dean Grubbs (FSU) presented FSU-UF collaborative research concerning sawfish inhabiting the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas, an area known for commercial shrimp trawl interactions with sawfish. Dean also discussed the results of his satellite tagging study of smalltooth sawfish in Andros Island, Bahamas. Dana Bethea (NMFS) presented her research in southwest Florida of neonate and small juvenile sawfish occurring in critical habitat, including the results of passive acoustic tracking. Lisa Hollensead (FSU) reviewed the results of her active acoustic tracking research, contributing to Dana's discussion of patterns of sawfish presence as they relate to the environment present in the Ten Thousand Islands area. Representing the Florida Museum of Natural History and International Sawfish Encounter Database (ISED) were George Burgess, Smalltooth Sawfish Status Review and Implementation Team, and John Waters, ISED database manager. They provided information on the database and current and future ISED initiatives. Burgess also summarized the now completed Indian River Lagoon monitoring project and on-going Florida Bay-Upper Florida Keys adult sawfish movement research. John Carlson (NMFS) discussed shrimp trawl fishery interactions with smalltooth sawfish and the results of NMFS tagging efforts.

Audra Livergood (NMFS) then reported about a NMFS grant that may be available to support sawfish education and outreach initiatives, including a potential workshop at Rookery Bay to inform fishermen how to properly and safely handle a sawfish if incidentally captured. Brad Tarr (US Army Corps of Engineers) discussed their work to model the effects of controlled discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River, part of sawfish critical habitat. Afterward, Gregg Poulakis (FL FWC) presented FWC research in the Peace and Caloosahatchee Rivers, including passive acoustic tracking and genetics. Finally, Tonya Wiley (Haven Worth Consulting) discussed the genetics work she has conducted with the assistance of Stony Brook's Dr. Demian Chapman and Dr. Kevin Feldheim(The Field Museum) to determine the genetic variability in the species and estimate an effective population size.

(Account of meeting courtesy John Waters, International Sawfish Encounter Database.)