11′ Smalltooth sawfish in the Marls along Abaco Island, the Bahamas

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.

Left to right | Jody, Richard, Tonya, Enie, Dean, and Lukas.

‘Predators and Hidey-Holes Are Good for Reef Fish Populations’

Here are some short press releases on my latest first author paper; here and here (second thesis chapter, done and check).

Conducted along the eastern shoreline of Great Abaco Island, The Bahamas, I used nearshore, patch reef communities to examine the separate and interactive effects of predators and habitat complexity on reef fish community assemblage. We found that predators present and high reef complexity had an additive, positive effect on total fish abundance: fish abundance increased by ~250% and 300%, compared to predators absent and low complexity reef treatments, respectively. Our data suggest that both fisheries management of large-bodied piscivores and reef habitat restoration are critical to the management and conservation of reef ecosystem functions and services.

This photo demonstrates the stark contrast in fish abundance between two reef treatments, no predator presence, low reef complexity (left) and predator presence, high reef complexity (right)