According to a new study in Science Advances, the sawfish is threatened with extinction unless something is done to curb overfishing. The shark-like ray, with its distinctive long, flattened rostrum has disappeared from half of the world’s coastal waters, according to the study’s authors from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.
Once found along the coasts of some 90 nations, sawfish are now presumed extinct from 46 of those countries. The study says there are a further 18 countries where at least one species of sawfish has disappeared, and 28 more where two species are missing. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, three of the five species of sawfish are “critically endangered” while the remainder are “endangered.”
“Through the plight of sawfish, we are documenting the first cases of a wide-ranging marine fish being driven to local extinction by overfishing,” says SFU researcher Nick Dulvy. “We’ve known for a while that the dramatic expansion of fishing is the primary threat to ocean biodiversity, but robust population assessment is difficult for low priority fishes whose catches have been poorly monitored over time. With this study, we tackle a fundamental challenge for tracking biodiversity change: discerning severe population declines from local extinction.”
The study suggests conservation efforts and adequate fishing protections could save the species by focusing on eight countries: Cuba, Tanzania, Columbia, Madagascar, Panama, Brazil, Mexico and Sri Lanka. In the U.S. and Australia, where sawfish are also found, adequate protections already exist.
Easily caught in fishing nets, the rostra are sold for novelty, traditional medicine and as spurs for cockfighting. Sawfish fins are also among the most valuable in the global shark fin trade.
Read more here.
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