Florida Museum of Natural History

Sawfish Implementation Team

Sawfish Images

U.S. Sawfish Listing History

In November 1999, The National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) received a petition from the Ocean Conservancy requesting that smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) and largetooth sawfish (Pristis perotteti) be listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In March 2000, NOAA Fisheries found that listing of smalltooth sawfish may be warranted, and initiated a status review. NOAA Fisheries completed the status review in December 2000, and published a proposed rule to list the U.S. population of smalltooth sawfish as endangered under the ESA on April 16, 2001. On April 1, 2003, NOAA Fisheries listed the U.S. population of smalltooth sawfish as an endangered species under the ESA.

In contrast, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined that the petition from the Ocean Conservancy did not present substantial information supporting the listing of largetooth sawfish. Data for largetooth sawfish was and remained very limited, not only for U.S. but also geographically separated global populations. The only documented life history parameters came from studies carried out by Thorson in Lake Nicaragua. Published U.S. largetooth data is restricted to a distributional note and a taxonomic treatise. Therefore, at that time, NMFS declared that the largetooth sawfish would be retained as a candidate species (65 FR 12959) and continued solicitation of data in order to resolve its status. The WildEarth Guardians petitioned NMFS to list the largetooth sawfish under the ESA in April 2009. On July 29, 2009 NMFS issued a positive 90-day finding that listing the species under the ESA may be warranted. This finding initiated a one-year status review process before an ESA listing could be proposed. Historical records were collected and analyzed resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of documented largetooth sawfish encounters through a collaborative effort between NMFS and the Florida Program for Shark Research. In May 2010, the largetooth sawfish was proposed as an endangered species and is undergoing final review.

Recovery Planning

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 planís goals and intermediate steps.

NOAA Fisheries has assembled a Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Team comprising researchers, managers and representatives from constituent groups to develop a recovery plan for the U.S. population of smalltooth sawfish. The team has met every few months since its first meeting in November 2003 and has completed the Recovery Plan. This plan is currently being implemented by the Sawfish Implementation Team.

Additional information

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) establishes policies and procedures for identifying, listing, and protecting species of wildlife that are endangered or threatened with extinction. The ESA defines an "endangered species" as "any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range." A "threatened species" is defined as "any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range."

Sawfish Implementation Team Meeting: March 2011