Largetooth Sawfish Conservation

While sawfishes (Pisces Pristidae) were once globally common, today they are among the most threatened elasmobranchs (sharks, rays and skates) in the world. All sawfish species are listed as "Critically Endangered" by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. In 2007 all but one were listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (Pristis microdon was listed in Appendix II).

1961 was the last verified encounter of the largetooth sawfish (Pristis pristis) in U.S. waters. Although this species was historically found inhabiting the Gulf of Mexico there hasn't been a largetooth sawfish encounter in the U.S. since. The smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) is the only species of sawfish inhabiting U.S. waters. Overfishing and habitat destruction, coupled with low intrinsic rates of population increase, have resulted in the decline of both sawfish species from most of their original U.S. ranges. Smalltooth sawfish are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

education, largetooth sawfish

The serious depletion of the U.S. populations of both sawfish species was the basis for the Ocean Conservancy's petition in 1999 to list them as endangered under the ESA. On March 10, 2000, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) published its determination (65 FR 12959) that the petition presented substantial information for listing the smalltooth sawfish under the ESA. On April 1, 2003 the U.S. distinct population segment (DPS) of smalltooth sawfish was listed as endangered (68 FR 15674). However, NMFS determined that the petition did not present substantial information supporting the listing of largetooth sawfish. Data for largetooth sawfish was and remained very limited, not only for U.S. but also geographically separated global populations. The only documented life history parameters came from studies carried out by Thorson in Lake Nicaragua. Published U.S. largetooth data is restricted to a distributional note and a taxonomic treatise. Therefore, at that time, NMFS declared that the largetooth sawfish would be retained as a candidate species (65 FR 12959), and continued solicitation of data in order to resolve its status. As a result, historical records were collected and analyzed resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of documented largetooth sawfish encounters through a collaborative effort between NMFS and the Florida Program for Shark Research. In May 2010, the largetooth sawfish was proposed as an "Endangered Species" and underwent a final review (PDF). In the July 2011 Federal Register (PDF), NMFS issued a final determination to list the largetooth sawfish as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Largetooth Sawfish Documents:

  • Listing Endangered and Threatened Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Status for the Largetooth Sawfish (Federal Register: July 12, 2011) (PDF)
  • Listing Endangered and Threatened Species and Designating Critical Habitat: Notice of Finding on a Petition To List the Largetooth Sawfish (Pristis perotteti) as an Endangered or Threatened Species Under the Endangered Species Act (Federal Register: July 29, 2009) (PDF)
  • Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Listing for the Largetooth Sawfish (Federal Register: May 7, 2010) (PDF)
  • Proposed Listing Rule References (PDF)
  • An Evaluation of the Status of the Largetooth Sawfish, Pristis perotteti, Based on Historic and Recent Distribution and Qualitative Observations of Abundance (Florida Program for Shark Research 2010) (PDF)
  • Status Review of the Largetooth Sawfish (NOAA/NMFS March 2010) (PDF)