What To Do If You See Or Catch An Endangered Sawfish

The population of smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) in the United States experienced a dramatic decline during the 20th century due to overfishing and habitat loss, prompting NOAA Fisheries to list the species as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act in 2003.  One of the best ways to track the effectiveness of ongoing management and conservation efforts is to collect information about the sawfish encounters of fishers, divers, and others.  Details of public sightings and captures of sawfish can substantially increase the data we have about the species, allowing us to make management and policy decisions that are reflective of the realities in the water.  We’re seeking help from the angling and diving communities to follow these sawfish interaction guidelines and send us information about their sawfish encounters.

For anglers to safely and legally release any sawfish accidentally caught while fishing:

  • Release sawfish immediately
  • Leave the sawfish, especially the gills, in the water at all times
  • Never lift a sawfish from the water or drag it ashore
  • Do not use gaffs or ropes to secure any captured sawfish
  • Cut the line as close to the hook as safely possible
  • Share the details of your sawfish catch with scientists
  • Anglers should note that advertising fishing trips or charters aimed at catching endangered smalltooth sawfish can be considered “targeting,” which is a violation of the ESA.  Therefore, I strongly urge that the following conservation messaging be included in all social media posts regarding sawfish catches:  Sawfish are protected under the Endangered Species Act.  Help protect this critically endangered species by following the handling and release guidelines available at www.SawfishRecovery.org.

For divers to safely and legally enjoy encounters with sawfish:

  • Keep your distance
  • Avoid disturbing sawfish
  • Never chase, feed, or touch them
  • Share information about your sawfish encounters with scientists
  • Divers should note that advertising expeditions aimed at encountering endangered smalltooth sawfish can be considered “targeting,” which is a violation of the ESA. Therefore, I strongly urge that the following conservation messaging be included in all social media posts regarding sawfish observations:  Sawfish are protected under the Endangered Species Act.  Help protect this critically endangered species by following the viewing guidelines available at www.SawfishRecovery.org.

You can promote sawfish recovery by following these interaction guidelines and educating others about them. Please share the information about your sawfish encounters by visiting www.SawfishRecovery.org, calling 1-844-4SAWFISH, emailing sawfish@myfwc.com, or entering the details in the FWC Reporter App.

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