May 2019 | Super exciting day in the field with Dr. Dean Grubbs, Tonya Wiley, Lukas Heath, and our amazing captains Jody and Richard Albury – cruising the Marls for six hours and right before dinner time, we spot her. A beautiful female smalltooth sawfish, about 11′ and likely still immature; that’s right, a juvenile at 11′!
Sawfishes are considered the most imperiled of all sharks and rays according to the IUCN Shark Specialist Group . Their populations are almost entirely threatened by human impacts including overfishing, by-catch, and removal/degradation of their habitat. Large, marine predator species, like sawfish, are important to protect because they are often top predators in ecosystems, altering communities through consumptive and non-consumptive effects, and because of their large biomass, they are major nutrient providers and transporters within nearshore ecosystems. The only remaining western Atlantic stronghold or “lifeboat” of smalltooth sawfish are in southwest Florida. Recent research by Dr. Grubbs and colleagues suggests that a smaller, viable population or “beacon of hope” may exist in The Bahamas along Andros.
However, there have also been a few sightings in Abaco, but this area has never been survey with specifically seeking sawfish, until now. We observed this 11′ sawfish on our very first survey day. We are still not sure how many sawfish are in the Marls, but hopefully we will be back soon to find out more.