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Most Commonly Asked Questions

Sawfish Research

Are scientists learning more about sawfish through research?

Yes, there is still much to be learned regarding the biology and ecology of all of the sawfish species. Scientists and fisheries managers have essentially overlooked sawfishes for centuries. Only recently has the plight of sawfish populations been realized and more research is now underway to answer critical questions relating to age and growth of the smalltooth sawfish, critical habitat requirements of the species, and the reduction in the range of this species in the US.

What do scientists still need to learn about sawfishes?

There is much to be learned still regarding all species of sawfishes. The only species that has been well studied thus-far is the largetooth sawfish (Pristis perotteti). Science knows more about the age and growth, reproduction, and movements of this one species that all the other species of sawfishes combined, thanks to the efforts of the now-deceased ichthyologist Thomas Thorson, who conducted extensive studies on this species in Nicaragua. Only the freshwater sawfish (Pristis microdon) has had research efforts approaching these amounts conducted thus far and there is still much to be learned about this species. Scientists in the US are particularly interested in learned more about the age and growth, reproduction, movement patterns, and habitat utilization of the smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata), because of the need to allow population recovery to begin for this endangered species.

Sawfish Recovery Team

What is the Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Team?

The Endangered Species Act requires that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (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 made significant progress on developing a draft recovery plan. Once the draft plan is completed, it will undergo a peer review by outside experts, and will be made available for public review and comment before the recovery plan is made final. You can learn more about the Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Team at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/sawfish/srt/srt.htm

What are some good references and resources to learn more about sawfishes?

The below web sites are excellent resources to learn more about sawfishes:
Scientic peer-reviewed resources include:
  • Peverall, S. C. 2005. Distribution of sawfishes (Pristidae) in the Queensland Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia, with notes on sawfish ecology. Env. Biol. Fish.2005(73)391-402.
  • Poulakis, G. R. and J. C. Seitz. 2004. Recent occurrence of the smalltooth sawfish, Pristis pectinata (Elasmobranchiomorphi: Pristidae), in Florida Bay and the Florida Keys, with comments on sawfish ecology. Florida Scient. 67:27-35.
  • Seitz, J. C. and G. R. Poulakis. 2002. Recent occurrence of sawfishes (Elasmobranchiomorphi: Pristidae) along the southwest coast of Florida (USA). Florida Scient. 65:256-266.
  • Thorson, T. B.1974. Occurrence of the sawfish, Pristis perotteti, in the Amazon River, with notes on P. pectinatus. Copeia 1974:560-564.
  • Thorson, T. B.1976. Observations on the reproduction of the sawfish, Pristis perotteti, in Lake Nicaragua, with recommendations for its conservation. pp. 641-650. In: T.B. Thorson (ed.) Investigations of the Ichthyofauna of Nicaraguan Lakes, School of Life Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska.
  • Thorson, T. B. 1982a. Life history implications of a tagging study of the largetooth sawfish, Pristis perotteti, in the Lake Nicaragua-San Juan system. Env. Biol. Fish. 7: 207-228.
  • Thorson, T. B. 1982b. The impact of commercial exploitation on sawfish and shark populations in Lake Nicaragua. Fisheries 7:2-10.

Answers by:
Jason Seitz