Research 7: Movements and conservation of endangered small-tooth sawfish

A sawfish that was tagged and released in Florida Bay. Photo: Y.Papastamatiou

The small-tooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) is a highly endangered elasmobranch that used to be abundant along the east coast of the US.  Now one of the few places where adult sawfish can be found are in Florida Bay, in the Everglades.  The decline in sawfish numbers was probably caused by several factors including overfishing and habitat modification (juvenile and neonate sawfish use very shallow water and mangrove habitats as nursery areas). Despite the large size of these animals (often approaching 5 m), most people are unaware of the presence of sawfish, as they inhabit very murky water.  We are using a combination of active and passive telemetry to understand the movements and seasonal utilization of Florida Bay by sawfish in order to use this information to improve conservation efforts.  Research for this project was conducted under NMFS permit # 17316.

Collaborator: George Burgess (University of Florida), Dr Dean Grubbs (Florida State University), Dr John Carlson (NMFS).

Publications:

Papastamatiou Y, Grubbs D, Imhoff J, Gulak S, Carlson J, Burgess G. 2015. A subtropical embayment serves as essential habitat for sub-adults and adults of the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish. Global Ecology and Conservation. 3:764-775

An acoustic listening station within Florida Bay, which will detect tagged sawfish. Photo: Y.Papastamatiou

A sawfish about to be tagged with an acoustic transmitter. Photo: Y.Papastamatiou