Conservation & Sustainable Management

Sawfish living on the edge

Folks, I’d like to introduce you all to sawfishes (not to be confused with the similar looking but very distinct sawsharks). There are 5 recognised species that make up this family of rays (the Pristidae ), all of which are ‘of conservation concern’. And when I say concern, I really mean it. Three of the five species – smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) , largetooth sawfish (Pristis pristis) , and green sawfish (Pristis zijsron) are classified on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered. The remaining two species – narrow sawfish (Anoxypristis cuspidate) , and dwarf sawfish (Pristis clavata)_ are classified as endangered. These rather beautiful rays, argues Nick Dulvy from Simon Fraser University and collaborators from Australia and America, are probably “ the world’s most imperilled marine fishes ”. Like other rays, and indeed sharks, skates and chimeras – all of which are a class of fish called Chondrichthyes – the cartilaginous fish (their skeletons are made of cartilage not bones), sawfish conservation has not been much of a priority in most areas of the works. Fortunately for sawfish, not everyone thinks that this is right, so Nick and his team of collaborators have put together this neat paper summarising some key informationon sawfish to help get the ball rolling a ‘tad’ faster than it is already. In fact the information summarised in this paper has played a part in the Global Sawfish Conservation Strategy. So let’s take a peek into the world of the sawfish, and crucially what we can do to give them a chance.

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