|Scientific Name:||Pristis pectinata|
|Species Authority:||Latham, 1794|
|Taxonomic Notes:||The genus Pristis is taxonomically chaotic with uncertainty regarding the true number of valid species (Compagno and Cook 1995a). The practical difficulties associated with resolving these taxonomic issues are acute, since it is extremely difficult to obtain specimens or tissue samples from these increasingly rare species for taxonomic research.|
|Red List Category & Criteria:||Critically Endangered A2bcd+3cd+4bcd ver 3.1|
|Assessor/s:||Adams, W.F., Fowler, S.L., Charvet-Almeida, P., Faria, V., Soto, J. & Furtado, M.|
|Reviewer/s:||Fordham, S., Simpfendorfer, C. & Kyne, P.M. & participants of the Shark Specialist Group Subequatorial Africa workshop (Shark Red List Authority)|
This large, widely distributed sawfish has been wholly or nearly extirpated from large areas of its former range in the North Atlantic (Mediterranean, US Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico) and the Southwest Atlantic coast by fishing and habitat modification. Remaining populations are now small, fragmented and Critically Endangered globally. It is apparently extinct in the Mediterranean and likely also the Northeast Atlantic. Reports of this species outside the Atlantic are now considered to have been misidentifications of other Pristis species.
|Range Description:||Possibly originally the most widespread Pristis species, but populations highly disjunct. Possibly less well adapted to freshwater than members of the Pristis pristis complex. Western Atlantic: North Carolina USA, to the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil (reported as far north as New York USA and as far south as Uruguay and northern Argentina). Eastern Atlantic: Mediterranean Sea and southern Portugal (now extirpated), Morocco to southern Angola (possibly northern Namibia), including Cameroon (Adams and Wilson 1995, Beebe and Tee-Van 1941, Bigelow and Schroeder 1953, Carvahlo et al. in press, Compagno et al. 1989, Fowler 1936 and 1941, Krefft and Stehmann 1973, Last and Stevens 1994, Misra 1969, Penrith 1978, Stehmann 1990, Vakily et al. 2002, Wallace 1967).
Recorded in freshwater (large rivers) in USA, Nicaragua, Colombia, Guyana, Brazil, Mali and Senegal (Bigelow and Schroeder 1953, Fowler 1936 and 1941, Thorson 1974, 1976a and 1982a, Thorson et al. 1966). Severe declines reported in several regions where it was formerly common, including eastern USA (Adams and Wilson 1996, Simpfendorfer 2002, Adams 2005). All species of sawfish seem to have been extirpated from the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean, although vagrants of this and other species may still occasionally enter the latter through the Suez Canal.
Native:Angola (Angola); Aruba; Belize; Benin; Brazil; Cameroon; Cape Verde; Colombia; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Cuba; Equatorial Guinea; French Guiana; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Gibraltar; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Guyana (Kalimantan, Sumatera); Israel; Jamaica; Lebanon; Liberia; Mauritania; Mexico; Morocco; Namibia; Nicaragua; Nigeria; Sao Tomé and Principe; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Africa; Suriname (Sabah); Syrian Arab Republic; Togo; Trinidad and Tobago; United States; Venezuela; Western Sahara
|FAO Marine Fishing Areas:||
Atlantic – eastern central; Atlantic – northeast; Atlantic – southeast; Atlantic – southwest; Atlantic – western central; Indian Ocean – eastern; Indian Ocean – western; Mediterranean and Black Sea
|Range Map:||Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.|
Populations are becoming increasingly rare and fragmented and all those known are severely threatened by target and bycatch fisheries and deterioration of habitats. Many populations have been extirpated or nearly extirpated from large areas of their former range, with no or only very few observations reported in most range states since the 1960s, although they were reportedly common in many inshore waters at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century (Goode 1884, Henshall 1895, Jordan and Evermann 1996, Bigelow and Schroeder 1953).
Adams and Wilson (1996) examined the reduction in populations of Pristis pectinata in the USA, concluding that both population and range have been severely reduced. In the late 19th Century, one fisherman reported catching 300 sawfish in his nets in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida, USA (Evermann and Bean 1898), but Snelson and Wilson (1981) reported the extirpation of sawfish from this formerly important site. The portion of the population that used to disperse north along the eastern coast of the USA as far as New York may have been completely lost. Bycatch rates in Louisiana shrimp trawlers declined steeply during the late 1950s and early 1960s and none have been reported since the 1970s (Simpfendorfer 2002). The Gulf of Mexico population is severely reduced, with isolated and very small populations perhaps totalling a couple of thousand individuals remaining off Florida and perhaps venturing to adjacent waters, compared with estimates of hundreds of thousands in the late 1800s (Simpfendorfer 2002). These now receive the USA?s strongest protection, but awareness of these measures is still poor and may leave individuals at risk for mortality based on curiosity or ignorance. The number or size of other remaining populations is unknown and not likely to be determined in the near future. The only population thought not to be in imminent danger of extinction, because it appears to have stopped declining and may now have stabilised at extremely low numbers, is that in the coastal waters on the Gulf coast of Florida, USA, where marine and estuarine protected areas and a gill net ban are in place, (Simpfendorfer 2000). This population is less than 5% (as little as 1%) of its size at the time of European settlement (Simpfendorfer 2002).
|Habitat and Ecology:||
Pristis pectinata is known from tropical and warm temperate nearshore ocean waters. Juveniles are common in very shallow waters, but adults occur to depths over 100 m (Poulakis and Seitz 2004, Simpfendorfer and Wiley 2005). They are thought to spend most time on or near the seabed, but occasionally swim at the surface. There are many records from coastal lagoons, estuarine environments and the lower, brackish drainages of rivers (Yarrow 1877, Bigelow and Schroeder 1953b, Swingle 1971).
The diet of Pristis pectinata is primarily fish, but it also consumes crustaceans and other bottom dwelling organisms (Bigelow and Schroeder 1953b). Breder (1952) summarized the function of the saw in the feeding strategy of P. pectinata, noting that prey is impaled on the rostral teeth then scraped-off on the bottom and consumed.
This species is very large-bodied (550 cm, possibly 760 cm TL). Because it grows slowly, it is believed to mature late and large individuals are thought to be very old. The four-generation period could even be 100 years or more. Bigelow and Schroeder (1953b) suggest that large females produce between 15 and 20 young per year; the young are born at 70 to 80 cm TL (Simpfendorfer unpublished data). Size at maturity is estimated as 320 cm TL. Maximum life span is estimated to be 40 to 70 yrs and generation times are approximately 27 yr. Annual rate of population increase estimated as 0.08 to 0.13. (Adams and Williams 1995, Bigelow and Schroeder 1953, Simpfendorfer 2000, 2002, Adams 2005).
Simpfendorfer (2000) estimated a population doubling time for P. pectinata of between 5.4 and 8.5 years under ideal conditions (no fisheries mortality, no population fragmentation, no habitat modification and no inbreeding depression arising from the genetic consequences of a small population size). He noted that the life history of these species makes any significant level of fishing unsustainable and that recovery from any population decline would be slow (taking decades to a point where extinction risk will be low, or centuries to recover to pre-European settlement levels in the USA).
The principal threat to all sawfishes is fisheries, both targeted and bycatch, because their long tooth-studded saw makes them extraordinarily vulnerable to entanglement in any sort of net gear.
There have been some large-scale target sawfish fisheries: in Lake Nicaragua in the 1970s, in the south-eastern United States in the 19th and early 20th century, and possibly in Brazil from 1960s to 1980s (bycatch is still landed in this range state). According to the FAO online database, FIGIS, sawfish landings were recorded between 1962 and 2001, with a peak of 1,759 t in 1978 worldwide. Most landings were from South America. A strong decline in reported landings took place between 1884 and 1995, partly masked by estimates of landings by FAO (it is unclear how these estimates were reached), despite some landings declared by Pakistan between 1987 and 1995, reaching 84 t in 1990. In West Africa, Liberia declared some landings between 1997 and 2000, ranging from 41 to 48 t. Landings are now only recorded sporadically and in very small quantities in world fisheries.
Populations are now so depleted, however, that commercial targeting of sawfish stocks for meat is no longer economically viable. Most sawfishes have been and still are killed in broad-spectrum commercial and artisanal fisheries, particularly set net and trawl fisheries that target a very wide range of fishes and invertebrates. Sawfishes are retained in these fisheries, just as they were in former target fisheries, because of the very high value of their products (meat is high quality and fins and rostral saws extremely valuable in international trade). They are also targeted opportunistically for the same reasons.
There is increasing demand for live sawfish to put on display in public aquaria, although most specimens today are sourced from Australia. The mortality rates associated with securing live sawfishes for this use is unknown. Trophy angling for very large specimens has been reported (Compagno and Cook 2005, www.fishbase.org, Simpfendorfer 2002).
Degradation of this species? shallow coastal and brackish habitat is associated with high levels of human activity, including through pollution, prey depletion, and coastal or riverine developments, including mangrove clearance, canal development and seawall construction (Simpfendorfer 2002).
The Nicaraguan government imposed a temporary moratorium on targeted fishing for sawfishes in Lake Nicaragua in the early 1980s (Thorson 1982), after the population collapsed following intensive fishing in the 1970s. The aim was to allow the population to recover, but no such recovery has occurred (McDavitt 2002 a). Protection was bolstered in 2006 with a Nicaraguan ban on fishing for sawfish, but only in Lake Nicaragua.Indonesia enacted legislation to protect sawfishes (and five other freshwater fish species) in Lake Sentani, West Papua, following severe depletion of populations in a gill net fishery (Compagno and Cook 2005).
The USA listed Pristis pectinata on the US Endangered Species List in 2003, following earlier protection in the State waters of Florida and Louisiana. This remnant population in the Gulf of Mexico is considered to have survived because of the benefits of large marine and coastal protected areas, including the establishment of the Everglades National Park in 1947, and as a result of a number of conservation measures during the 1990s, primarily species protection in Florida and Louisiana and a ban on all forms of entangling fishing nets in Florida State waters (Simpfendorfer 2002). The decline in this population may have ceased as a result of these measures. The state of Texas prohibited catch of smalltooth sawfish in concert with the ESA listing and has proposed similar action for largetooth sawfish based on similarity of appearance. A Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Plan (under the ESA) is anticipated for release, comment, and implementation beginning in mid 2006 and is expected to include myriad conservation actions.
All Australian sawfish populations are listed as Vulnerable or Endangered, either under Australia?s Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) or by the Australian Society for Fish Biology (ASFB).
India?s Ministry of Environment and Forests has protected all species of sawfishes under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972 since 2001.
No habitat protection measures have been identified specifically for sawfishes, but the large marine protected areas on Florida?s Gulf of Mexico coast have been identified (above) as a vital factor in the survival of Pristis pectinata on the US coast. Other protected areas, particularly those that include gill net bans, may have the potential to be similarly important for sawfish conservation. The US National Marine Fisheries Service is working to establish ?critical habitat? for sawfish pursuant to the Endangered Species Act listing. Habitat protection measures are likely to be part of the Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Plan (see above).
In January 2006, eBay announced it would ban the sale of sawfish parts and products on their on-line auction site. This measure will require vigilant monitoring within eBay and with the help of outside experts.
All species of Pristidae have been listed under Appendix I of CITES (2007), except Pristis microdon which is listed under Appendix II.
|Citation:||Adams, W.F., Fowler, S.L., Charvet-Almeida, P., Faria, V., Soto, J. & Furtado, M. 2006. Pristis pectinata. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 19 June 2013.|
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