The Latest On Sawfish Listing As Endangered

The WildEarth Guardians (WEG) in 2010 requested that NMFS list six sawfish species as endangered. NMFS published a finding that it may be warranted  in 2011. This is their latest report regarding sawfish, which they state are located everywhere. 

We, NMFS, have completed comprehensive status reviews under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of five species of sawfishes in response to a petition to list six sawfish species. In our 90-day finding we determined that Pristis pristis, as described in the petition, was not a valid species and began our status review on the remaining five species (Anoxypristis cuspidata; Pristis clavata; Pristis microdon; Pristis zijsron; and all non-listed population(s) of Pristis pectinata). During our status review, new scientific information revealed that three previously recognized species (P. microdon, P. pristis, and P. perotteti) were in fact a single species, Pristis pristis. We had previously listed P. perotteti as an endangered species (July 12, 2011). We therefore also considered the information from our 2010 status review of P. perotteti, herein P. pristis. We have determined, based on the best scientific and commercial data available and after taking into account efforts being made to protect the species, that the narrow sawfish (A. cuspidata); dwarf sawfish (P. clavata); largetooth sawfish (collectively P. pristis; formerly P. pristis, P. microdon, and P. perotteti); green sawfish (P. zijsron); and the non-listed population(s) of smalltooth sawfish P. pectinata meet the definition of an endangered species. We also include a change in the scientific name for largetooth sawfish in this proposed rule to codify the taxonomic reclassification of P. perotteti to P. pristis. We are not proposing to designate critical habitat because the geographical areas occupied by the species are entirely outside U.S. jurisdiction and we have not identified any unoccupied areas that are currently essential to the conservation of any of these species. We are soliciting information that may be relevant to these listing and critical habitat determinations, especially on the status and conservation of these species.

Comments on this proposed rule must be received by August 5, 2013. Public hearing requests must be made by July 19, 2013.


ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by the following 


document number, NOAA-NMFS-2011-0073, by any of the following methods:

     Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public 

comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2011-0073. click the ``Comment Now'' icon, 

complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

     Fax: 727-824-5309; Attn: Assistant Regional Administrator  

for Protected Resources.

    Instructions: You must submit comments by one of the above methods 

to ensure that we receive, document, and consider them. Comments sent 

by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received 

after the end of the comment period may not be considered. All comments 

received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted 

for public viewing on without change. All 

personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.) 

confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information 

submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. We 

will accept anonymous comments (enter ``N/A'' in the required fields if 

you wish to remain anonymous). Attachments to electronic comments will 

be accepted in Microsoft Word, Excel, or Adobe PDF file formats only.

    You can obtain the petition, the proposed rule, and the list of 

references electronically on our NMFS Web site at



Regional Office (727) 824-5312 or Dr. Dwayne Meadows, NMFS, Office of 

Protected Resources (301) 427-8403.






    On September 10, 2010, we received a petition from the WildEarth 

Guardians (WEG) requesting we list six sawfish species: knifetooth, 

narrow, or pointed sawfish (A. cuspidata, hereinafter the narrow 

sawfish); dwarf or Queensland sawfish (P. clavata, hereinafter the 

dwarf sawfish); largetooth sawfish (P. pristis and P. microdon); green 

sawfish (P. zijsron); and the non-listed population(s) of smalltooth 

sawfish (P. pectinata) as endangered or threatened under the ESA; or 

alternatively to list any distinct population segments (DPS) that exist 

under the ESA. On March 7, 2011, we published a 90-day finding (76 FR 

12308) stating the petitioned action may be warranted for five of the 

six species A. cuspidata, P. clavata, P. microdon, P. zijsron, and the 

non-listed population(s) of P. pectinata. Information in our records 

indicated that P. pristis as described in the petition, was not a valid 

species. Our 90-day finding requested information to inform our 

decision, and announced the initiation of status reviews for the five 

species. During the comment period we received five public comments.

    We are responsible for determining whether species are threatened 

or endangered under the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). To make this 

determination, we first consider whether a group of organisms 

constitutes a ``species'' under the ESA, then whether the status of the 

species qualifies it for listing as either threatened or endangered. 

Section 3 of the ESA defines a ``species'' as ``any subspecies of fish 

or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment of any 

species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature.'' 

Section 3 of the ESA further defines an endangered species as ``any 

species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a 

significant portion of its range'' and a threatened species as one 

``which is likely to become an endangered species within the 

foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its 

range.'' Thus, we interpret an ``endangered species'' to be one that is 

presently in danger of extinction. A ``threatened species,'' on the 

other hand, is not presently in danger of extinction, but is likely to 

become so in the foreseeable future (that is, at a later time). In 

other words, the primary statutory difference between a threatened and 

endangered species is the timing of when a species may be in danger of 

extinction, either presently (endangered) or in the foreseeable future 

(threatened). Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA requires us to determine 

whether any species is endangered or threatened due to any one or a combination of 

the following five factors: (A) The present or threatened destruction, 

modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (B) 

overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 

educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) the inadequacy of 

existing regulatory mechanisms; or (E) other natural or manmade factors 

affecting its continued existence. We are required to make listing 

determinations based solely on the best scientific and commercial data 

available after conducting a review of the status of the species and 

after taking into account efforts being made by any state or foreign 

nation to protect the species.

    In making listing determinations for these five species, we first 

determine whether each petitioned species meet the ESA definition of a 

``species''. Next, using the best available information gathered during 

the status reviews, we complete an extinction risk assessment using the 

general procedure of Wainwright and Kope (1999). We then assess the 

threats affecting the status of each species using the five factors 

identified in section 4(a)(1) of the ESA.

    Once we have determined the threats, we assess efforts being made 

to protect the species to determine if these conservation efforts were 

adequate to mitigate the existing threats. We evaluate conservation 

efforts using the criteria outlined in the joint NMFS and U.S. Fish and 

Wildlife Service (USFWS) Policy for Evaluating Conservation Efforts 

(PECE; 68 FR 15100; March 28, 2003) to determine their certainty of 

implementation and effectiveness for future or not yet fully 

implemented conservation efforts. Finally, we re-assess the extinction 

risk of each species in light of the existing conservation efforts.


Status Reviews


    In order to conduct a comprehensive review, NMFS Southeast Region 

Protected Resources Division and NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science 

Center, Panama City Laboratory, staff members collaborated to identify 

the best available information. Unlike some previous 12-month findings 

from this agency, we have not developed a separate status review 

report. Instead, we present all information available for these species 

in this Federal Register notice; we first discuss background 

information relative to all five species and then include descriptions 

of the natural history specific to each species.


Sawfish General Species Description


    Sawfishes are a group of shark-like rays. Taxonomically they are 

classified in the Family Pristidae (sawfishes), Order Rajiformes 

(skates, rays, and sawfishes) and Class Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous 

fish), also commonly known as elasmobranchs. The overall body form of 

sawfishes is similar to sharks, but they are flattened dorso-ventrally. 

Sawfishes are covered with dermal denticles (teeth-like scales) and 

possess enlarged pectoral fins.

    The most distinct characteristic of sawfishes is their large, flat, 

toothed rostrum or `saw' with large teeth on each side. The rostral 

teeth are made from calcified tissue that is neither dentin nor enamel, 

though it is more similar to the latter (Bradford, 1957). Rostral teeth 

develop inside sockets on the rostrum and are held in place by strong 

fibers. Unlike sharks, sawfish rostral teeth are not replaced, although 

partially broken teeth may continue to grow (Miller, 1974). For some 

species of sawfish, the number of rostral teeth can vary by geographic 


    Sawfishes use their rostrum to locate, stun, and kill prey, 

generally small schooling fishes such as mullet, herring, shad, and 

sardines (Bigelow and Schroeder, 1953). Breder (1952), in summarizing 

the literature on observations of sawfish feeding behavior, noted that 

they attack fish by slashing sideways through schools of fish, and then 

impale the fish on their rostral teeth. Prey are subsequently scraped 

off their rostral teeth by rubbing the rostrum on the bottom and then 

ingesting the whole fish. Bigelow and Schroeder (1953) also report that 

sawfish feed on crustaceans and other benthic species. Recent studies 

indicate that sawfishes may use their toothed rostrum to sense their 

prey's electric fields (Wueringer et al., 2011; 2012).

    All sawfish species are distributed primarily in circumtropical 

shallow coastal waters that generally vary in salinity. While sawfishes 

are commonly found in shallow water, adults are known to also inhabit 

deeper waters (greater than 130 ft, 39.6 m). Some sawfishes are found 

in freshwater, with established populations in major rivers and lakes 

of South America, Africa, and southeast Asia. The physical 

characteristics of habitat, such as salinity and temperature, likely 

influence a sawfish's movement patterns. Tides limit the physical 

habitat area available, which may explain movement into shallow water 

areas during specific tidal cycles (Blaber et al., 1989).

    Life history data on sawfishes are limited. Fertilization is 

internal by means of male claspers and reproduction is ovoviviparous; 

females carry eggs with a yolk sac that nourishes developing young 

until they hatch within the body. Sawfishes are born with a gelatinous 

substance around their rostral teeth to protect the mother during birth 

(Last and Stevens, 1994; Rainboth, 1996; Compagno and Last, 1999; Raje 

and Joshi, 2003; Field et al., 2009). It is thought that most sawfishes 

breed every two years and have a gestation period of about four to five 

months (Bigelow and Schroeder, 1953; Thorson, 1976a). The number of 

young in a litter varies by species, as does the age at sexual 


    Like most chondrichthyes, sawfishes occupy the mid to upper level 

of the food web. Smaller sawfishes, including juveniles, may be preyed 

upon by larger sharks like the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), 

estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) or alligators (Alligator 

mississippiensis). Sawfishes may use their saw as a weapon for defense 

against these predators (Brewer et al., 1997; Wueringer et al., 2009).

    Previously, seven valid species of sawfish were recognized 

worldwide (Compagno, 1999). Per Compagno and Cook (1995) and Compagno 

(1999) these are A. cuspidata (Latham 1794), P. microdon Latham 1794, 

P. perotteti Muller & Henle 1841, P. pristis (Linnaeus 1758), P. 

clavata Garman 1906, P. pectinata (Latham 1794), and P. zijsron 

(Bleeker 1851). Since then, the taxonomy, delineation, and 

identification of these species have proven problematic (Oijen et al., 

2007; Wiley et al., 2008; Wueringer et al., 2009). Most recently, Faria 

et al. (2013) hypothesized that the taxonomic uncertainty occurred due 

to several factors: many original species descriptions were 

abbreviated, few holotypes are available for examination, reference 

material is not available for comparison in museum collections, and it 

is difficult to obtain fresh specimens because of the infrequent 

captures of all sawfishes. The majority of the confusion regarding 

taxonomic classification of Pristidae was related to the species P. 

pristis. To resolve these questions regarding the taxonomy of pristids, 

Faria et al. (2013) used historical taxonomy, external morphology, and 

mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences (NADH-2 loci) to hypothesize that 

the sawfishes comprise five species in two genera: P. pristis, P. 

clavata, P. pectinata, P. zijsron, and A. cuspidata. We accept this 

proposed taxonomy as the best available science at this time.


Natural History of the Narrow Sawfish (Anoxypristis cuspidata)

Taxonomy and Morphology

     The narrow sawfish was first described by Latham in 1794 as P. 

cuspidatus. It was later reclassified as Anoxypristis due to 

morphological differences from Pristis that include its narrow rostral 

saw, which lacks teeth on the first quarter of the saw closest to the 

head in adults, and the distinct shape of the lower lobe of the caudal 

fin (Compagno et al., 2006a). In juveniles the portion of the rostrum 

without teeth is only about one-sixth of the saw length (Wueringer et 

al., 2009).

    In addition, the narrow sawfish is characterized by dagger-shaped 

rostral teeth (Fowler, 1941; Blegvad and Loppenthin, 1944; Compagno and 

Last, 1999; Faria et al., 2013). The narrow sawfish also has a second 

pair of lateral canals in its rostrum that are not present in other 

sawfishes. These canals contain an additional connection to the 

ampullae of Lorenzini located on the underside of the rostrum 

(Wueringer et al., 2009).

    Rostral tooth count varies for this species between 18-22 (Last and 

Stevens, 1994), 24-28 (Hussakof, 1912), and 27-32 (Miller, 1974). Total 

number of teeth has been found to vary by individual, region, and sex. 

Some studies report males having fewer rostral teeth than females, and 

others the opposite (Last and Stevens, 1994; Compagno and Last, 1999). 

While total rostral tooth count is often inconsistent among individuals 

or studies, the number of teeth an individual has is fixed during 

development (Wueringer et al., 2009).

    The pectoral fins of the narrow sawfish are narrow, short, and 

shark-like in shape. The first dorsal fin is located posterior to the 

insertion of the pelvic fins (Compagno and Last, 1999). Within the jaw, 

there are 94 teeth on the upper jaw and 102 on the lower jaw (Taniuchi 

et al., 1991a). The eyes are large and very close to the spiracles. 

Coloration is dark grey dorsally and whitish ventrally (Fowler, 1941; 

Compagno and Last, 1999).

    Narrow sawfish are the only sawfish having tricuspid (three-

pointed) denticles (White and Moy-Thomas, 1941). Because these 

denticles first appear on neonate sawfish at 25.6-28 in (65-71 cm) 

total length (TL), they are developed post-natally. In general, the 

narrow sawfish is considered ``naked'' because denticle coverage in 

adults is often sporadic and widely spaced, usually only covering the 

rostrum and anterior fin margins, making the skin appear smooth 

(Fowler, 1941; Gloerfelt-Tarp and Kailola, 1984; Last and Stevens, 

1994; Wueringer et al., 2009). Narrow sawfish also have buccopharyngeal 

denticles present in their mouth. This species does not have tubercles 

or thorns on their skin (Deynat, 2005).


Habitat Use and Migration


    The narrow sawfish is largely euryhaline and moves between 

estuarine and marine environments (Gloerfelt-Tarp and Kailola, 1984; 

Last, 2002; Compagno, 2002b; Compagno et al., 2006a; Peverell, 2008). 

It is generally found in inshore waters in depths of less than 130 ft 

(39.6 m) with salinities between 25 and 35 parts per thousand (ppt), 

spending most of its time near the substrate or in the water column 

over coastal flats (Compagno and Last, 1999; Last, 2002; Peverell, 

2005; Peverell, 2008; Wueringer et al., 2009). While Smith (1936) 

described it as a possible freshwater species, there are only a few 

reports from freshwater (Taniuchi and Shimizu, 1991; Last and Compagno, 

2002; Bonfil and Abdallah, 2004; Wueringer et al., 2009). We are not 

aware of any fresh or salt water tolerance studies on the species 

(Compagno, 2002a; Compagno, 2002b) and conclude its habitat is 


    In studies conducted by Peverell (2008), the narrow sawfish in the 

Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia undergo an ontogenetic shift in habitat. 

Larger individuals were commonly encountered offshore, while smaller 

individuals were mostly found in inshore waters. Peverell (2008) also 

found females were more likely to be offshore compared to males, at 

least during the months of the study (February to May). This suggests 

that smaller narrow sawfish use the protection and prey abundance found 

in shallow, coastal waters (Dan et al., 1994; Peverell, 2005; Peverell, 



Age and Growth


    Two studies have been conducted on age and growth of narrow 

sawfish. Field et al. (2009) compared previously-aged vertebrae with 

aged rostral teeth and found a direct correlation up to age 6. After 

age 6, an individual's age was often underestimated using tooth growth 

bands as the teeth become worn over time (Field et al., 2009). Peverell 

(2008) then used aged vertebrae to develop more accurate growth curves 

for both sexes. While the maximum observed age of narrow sawfish from 

vertebrae was 9 years, the theoretical longevity was calculated at 27 

years (Peverell, 2008). At an age of one year, saw length is 

approximately 4.5 in (11.5 cm). Female narrow sawfish begin to mature 

at 8 ft 1 in (246 cm) TL and all are mature at 15 ft 5 in (470 cm) TL; 

males are mature at 8 ft (245 cm) TL (Pogonoski et al., 2002; Bonfil 

and Abdallah, 2004; Peverell, 2005; 2008). The maximum recorded length 

of a narrow sawfish is 15 ft 5 in (4.7 m) TL, with unconfirmed records 

of 20 ft (6.1 m) TL (Last and Stevens, 1994; Compagno and Last, 1999; 

Pogonoski et al., 2002; Bonfil and Abdallah, 2004; Faria et al., 2013).




    The narrow sawfish gives birth to a maximum of 23 pups in the 

spring. The total length (TL) of pups at birth is between 17-24 in (43-

61 cm) (Compagno and Last, 1999; Peverell, 2005; 2008). The 

reproductive cycle is assumed to be annual, with an average of 12 pups 

per litter (Peverell, 2005; D'Anastasi, 2010). The number of pups is 

related to female body size, as smaller females produce fewer offspring 

than larger females (Compagno and Last, 1999). Preliminary genetic 

research suggests that the narrow sawfish may not have multiple fathers 

per litter (D'Anastasi, 2010).

    Female narrow sawfish captured in August (dry season) in the Gulf 

of Carpentaria, Australia, all contained large eggs indicating they 

were mature (Peverell, 2005). Mature males were also captured in 

similar locations during the same time of year (McDavitt, 2006). 

Although sexually mature, mating may not occur until the rainy season 

in March-May (Raje and Joshi, 2003).

    Age at maturity for narrow sawfish is 2 years for males and 3 years 

for females (Peverell, 2008). The intrinsic rate of population increase 

(rate of growth of the population) based on life history data from the 

exploited population in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia, has been 

estimated at 0.27 per year (Moreno Iturria, 2012), with a population 

doubling time of 2.6 years.


Diet and Feeding


    Narrow sawfish feed on small fish and cuttlefish (Compagno and 

Last, 1999; Field et al., 2009) and, likely, crustaceans, polychaetes, 

and amphipods (Raje and Joshi, 2003).


Population Structure


    Genetic and morphological data support the division of the global 

species of narrow sawfish into subpopulations (Faria et al., 2013). 

Based on gene sequence data, there is a very low level of gene flow 

between the northern Indian Ocean (N=2) and west Pacific (N=11) 

populations. In a qualitative analysis when data were pooled, four 

haplotypes were identified:

 northern Indian Ocean; Indonesian; New Guinean-Australian; and a 

northern Indian Ocean haplotype from a single specimen that lacked 

capture location (Faria et al., 2013). A morphological distinction in 

narrow sawfish between the Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean 

subpopulations occurs in the number of rostral teeth (Faria et al., 

2013). Specimens collected from the Indian Ocean had a higher number of 

rostral teeth per side than those collected from the western Pacific.

    Field et al. (2009) examined the primary chemical components of 

rostral teeth (i.e., oxygen, calcium, and phosphorous) from narrow 

sawfish captured throughout Australia in an attempt to separate 

subpopulations based on the isotopes of these chemicals. They found 

distinctions between regions indicating two separate subpopulations 

within the Gulf of Carpentaria Australia: one in the west (Northern 

Territory) and one in the east (Queensland). However, we realize that 

using isotopes to separate elasmobranch populations is in its infancy 

and, coupled with the limited number of samples, it is not yet clear 

whether these results agree with the above genetic studies of 

population structure. Isotopic signatures indicate the location where 

an animal spends most of its time and identifies its major prey 

resources, and do not necessarily provide information on reproductive 

connectivity between regions. Therefore, we conclude that the best 

available information on isotopic signatures does not support 

separating narrow sawfish into subpopulations.


Distribution and Abundance


    The narrow sawfish is found throughout the eastern and western 

portions of the Indian Ocean as well as much of the western Pacific 

Ocean. The range once extended from as far west as the Red Sea in Egypt 

and Somalia (M. McDavitt pers. comm. to IUCN, 2012) to as far north as 

Honshu, Japan, including India, Sri Lanka, and China (Blaber et al., 

1994; Last and Stevens, 1994; Compagno and Last, 1999; Compagno et al., 

2006a; Van Oijen et al., 2007). The species has also been recorded in 

rivers in India, Burma, Malaysia, and Thailand (Compagno, 2002b).

    While uncertain, the current status of narrow sawfish populations 

across its range has declined substantially from historic levels. The 

species was previously commonly reported throughout its range but it is 

now becoming rare in catches by both commercial and recreational 

fishers (Brewer et al., 2006; Compagno et al., 2006a). To evaluate the 

current and historic distribution and abundance of the narrow sawfish, 

we conducted an extensive search of peer-reviewed publications and 

technical reports, newspaper, and magazine articles. The result of that 

search is summarized below by major geographic region.


Indian Ocean


    The earliest reports of narrow sawfish in the Indian Ocean were 

from 1937 and 1938. Two sawfish were captured from the northern Indian 

Ocean (no specific location was reported). A third specimen was later 

caught in the same area (Blegvad and Loppenthin, 1944).

    From areas in the western Indian Ocean around the Arabian Sea, 

three rostra were collected in 1938: two near Bushire, Iran, presumably 

from the Gulf of Oman, and a third in Jask, Iran, also adjacent to the 

Gulf of Oman (Blegvad and Loppenthin, 1944). The most extensive report 

was 13 rostra from the Persian Gulf (one of those was from Iran) but it 

did not include date information (Faria et al., 2013). Four juveniles 

were recorded in Pakistan waters in 1975; two females and two males.

    Most records of narrow sawfish in the Indian Ocean are from the Bay 

of Bengal. In 1960 and 1961, 118 sawfish, mostly narrow sawfish, were 

captured during fishery surveys using gillnets and long lines (James, 

1973). There are several additional records of rostra from Bangladesh 

in the 1960s (Faria et al., 2013). A narrow sawfish was used for a 1969 

parasitological study in Bangladesh but no further information was 

recorded (Moravec et al., 2006). Faria et al. (2013) also reported one 

specimen from 1976, as well as eleven more records off India, but no 

dates were recorded. From 1982-1994, one juvenile female, one juvenile 

male, and three rostra were recorded in Pondicherry, India (Deynat, 

2005). Two female neonate specimens were recorded in Sri Lanka, and 

three juveniles (two males and one female) from Malabar in southwest 

India were also reported from 1982-1994 (Deynat, 2005). Between 1981-

2000, in the Bay of Bengal, total elasmobranch landings records are 

dominated by rays, but include narrow sawfish (Raje and Joshi, 2003).

    Landings of narrow sawfish are currently reported from the Indian 

Ocean off India although they are infrequent (K.K. Bineesh pers. comm. 

to IUCN, 2012). The last published record of narrow sawfish from the 

western edge of the range, in the Straits of Hormuz, was in 1997 (A. 

Moore pers. comm. to IUCN, 2012).


Indo-Pacific Ocean (excluding Australia)


    There are several accounts of narrow sawfish over time from various 

unspecified locations throughout the Indo-Pacific. The first records of 

narrow sawfish were for juvenile males in 1852 and 1854 (Faria et al., 

2013). In 1952, two females were captured from Batavia, Semarang, 

Indonesia along with a third female without a rostrum (Van Oijen et 

al., 2007). Both a female and male were recorded in 1867. Prior to 

1879, one male and one female were also recorded from Indonesia and 

four rostra were reported from China in 1898 (Faria et al., 2013).

    The next reports of narrow sawfish from the Indo-Pacific occurred 

in the 1930's. A female was reported in 1931 in Indonesia (no specific 

location), and a male in Singapore in 1937 (Blegvad and Loppenthin, 

1944). A narrow sawfish was caught in the Gulf of Thailand in March 

1937 (Blegvad and Loppenthin, 1944). A single report from Papua-New 

Guinea was recorded in 1938 (Faria et al., 2013). In 1945, narrow 

sawfish were reported in the Chao Phraya River, Thailand and its 

tributaries (Smith, 1945).

    Records of narrow sawfish throughout the Indo-Pacific continue to 

be scattered and infrequent throughout the 1950's. Faria et al. (2013) 

recorded rostra from Papua-New Guinea; two from 1955, one each from 

1966, 1980, and 2000. A male was caught in 1989 from the Oriomo River, 

Papua-New Guinea (Taniuchi et al., 1991b; Taniuchi and Shimizu, 1991; 

Taniuchi, 2002). There are other reports of narrow sawfish from Papua-

New Guinea around the Gulf of Papua and in Bootless Bay from the 

1970's, but there are no recent records (Taniuchi et al., 1991b). In a 

comprehensive literature search for the period 1923-1996 on the 

biodiversity of elasmobranchs in the south China Sea, Compagno (2002a) 

found no records of sawfishes. However, fresh dorsal and caudal fins of 

narrow sawfish were found during a survey of fish markets from 1996-

1997 in Thailand (Manjaji, 2002b).

    There are even fewer records of narrow sawfish from the Indo-

Pacific over the last few decades. The only known specimen in the 21st 

century is a single report from New Guinea in 2001 (L. Harrison pers. 





    Australia may have larger populations of narrow sawfish than any 

other area within the species range (Peverell, 2005). The earliest 

record of narrow sawfish is from 1926 from Sydney (Pogonoski et al., 

2002). We found no reports of narrow sawfish from Australia from 1926 until the 1990s. Two 

narrow sawfish were reported from the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1990 

(Blaber et al., 1994). Single specimens were captured in 1991 from the 

west coast of Australia (Alexander, 1991), the Gulf of Carpentaria in 

1995 (Brewer et al., 1997) and the Arafura Sea in 1999 (Beveridge et 

al., 2005). Faria et al. (2013) reported 3 rostra records from private 

collections in Australia from 1998-1999, but no other information on 

the collection location was reported.

    Narrow sawfish have been reported in multiple studies between 2000 

and 2011, mostly from northern Australia. In a bycatch reduction device 

study conducted in 2001 in the Gulf of Carpentaria, 25 narrow sawfish 

were captured in trawling gear (Brewer et al., 2006). A survey of 

fisheries data and records identified 74 offshore and 37 inshore 

records of narrow sawfish in the Gulf of Carpentaria (Peverell, 2005). 

Between April 2004 and April 2005, 16 narrow sawfish were caught in the 

Gulf of Carpentaria during a trawl bycatch study; the mean catch rate 

was 0.16 sawfish per hour (Dell et al., 2009). Observers on commercial 

fishing boats recorded nine captures of narrow sawfish in 2007 within 

the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, Queensland, which accounted 

for 0.86 percent of the shark and ray catch in the commercial fisheries 

(Williams, 2007). Observers in the Northern Territory's Offshore Net 

and Line Fishery encountered several narrow sawfish from 2007-2010 

(Davies, 2010). Data from the Kimberley, Australia (R. McAuley pers. C. Simpfendorfer, 2012), the Northern Territory (Field et al., 

2009), the Gulf of Carpentaria (Peverell, 2005), and parts of the 

Queensland east coast (Harry et al., 2011) suggest viable 

subpopulations may remain locally, but at significantly lower levels 

compared to historic levels.

    In summary, it appears the current range of narrow sawfish is 

restricted largely to Australia. Narrow sawfish are considered very 

rare in many places where evidence is available, including parts of 

India (Roy, 2010), Bangladesh (Roy, 2010), Burma (FIRMS, 2007-2012), 

Malaysia (including Borneo; Almada-Villela 2002; Manjaji, 2002), 

Indonesia (White and Kyne, 2010), Thailand (CITES, 2007; Compagno, 

2002a; Vidthayanon, 2002), and Singapore (CITES, 2007). In Australia, 

narrow sawfish are primarily located in the northern area. For example, 

a bycatch reduction device study conducted in 2001 reported narrow 

sawfish in the Gulf of Carpentaria, a similar study conducted off the 

eastern coast did not capture a single specimen (Courtney et al., 

2006). The most recent museum record for narrow sawfish in southern 

Australia was from New South Wales in the 1970s (Pogonoski et al., 

2002). Data from the Queensland Shark Control Program, conducted along 

the east coast of Queensland, from 1969-2003 shows a clear decline in 

sawfish catch (although not species-specific) with the complete 

disappearance of sawfish in southern regions of Queensland by 1993 

(Stevens et al., 2005). Although we cannot rule out underreporting of 

narrow sawfish, especially in remote areas of its historic range, we 

conclude from the consistent lack of records that narrow sawfish have 

been severely depleted in numbers and their range has contracted.


Natural History of Dwarf Sawfish (Pristis clavata)


Taxonomy and Morphology


    Due to its small size and geographic location where it was 

described, P. clavata is referred to as the dwarf or the Queensland 

sawfish. The species was first described by Garman in 1906; however it 

has often been confused with the smalltooth sawfish or largetooth 

sawfish species complex (Last and Stevens, 1994; Cook et al., 2006; 

Morgan et al., 2010a) given the lack of distinct characters. Ishihara 

et al. (1991a) provides the most concise review of the physical 

characteristics of the dwarf sawfish.

    The dwarf sawfish is olive brown in color dorsally with a white 

underside. The rostrum of this species is quite short, with 19-23 

rostral teeth that are moderately flattened, elongated, and peg-like. 

Studies indicate that this species does not display significant 

differences in the number of rostral teeth between males (19-23 teeth) 

and females (20-23 teeth) (Ishihara et al., 1991a; Thorburn et al., 

2008; Morgan et al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2011). This species can be 

distinguished from largetooth sawfish based on tooth morphology as 

described by Thorburn et al. (2007). The rostrum makes up 21-26 percent 

of the total length of the dwarf sawfish (Blaber et al., 1989; Grant, 

1991; Last and Stevens, 1994; Compagno and Last, 1999; Larson et al., 

2006; Wueringer et al., 2009; Morgan et al., 2011).

    Morphologically, the origin of the first dorsal fin is slightly 

posterior to the insertion of the pelvic fins, and the second dorsal 

fin is smaller than the first. The pectoral fins are small, compared to 

other sawfish species, and are ``poorly developed'' (Ishihara et al., 

1991a). There is no lower lobe on the caudal fin. Lateral and low keels 

are present along the base of the tail (Compagno and Last, 1999; 

Wueringer et al., 2009; Morgan et al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2011). 

Within the mouth are 82-84 tooth rows on the upper jaw. Total vertebrae 

number is 225-231. The dwarf sawfish has regularly overlapping 

monocuspidate denticles on its skin. As a result, there are no keels or 

furrows formed on the skin (Fowler, 1941; Last and Stevens, 1994; 

Deynat, 2005).


Habitat Use and Migration


    The dwarf sawfish has been found along tropical coasts in marine 

and estuarine waters, mostly from northern Australia; it may inhabit 

similar habitats in other areas. Dwarf sawfish are reported on mudflats 

in water 6 ft 7 in to 9 ft 10 in (2-3 m) deep that is often turbid and 

influenced heavily by tides. This species has also been reported in 

rivers (Last and Stevens, 1994; Wueringer et al., 2009; Morgan et al., 

2010a) and as commonly occurring in both brackish and freshwater, and 

in both marine and estuarine habitats (Rainboth, 1996; Thorburn et al., 


    Juvenile dwarf sawfish may use the estuaries associated with the 

Fitzroy River, Australia as nursery habitat for up to three years 

(Thorburn et al., 2008). Dwarf sawfish are also known to use the Gulf 

of Carpentaria, Australia as nursery area (Gorham, 2006). No adults or 

juveniles were found in freshwater areas of the river during the time 

of the study. However, physical characteristics such as salinity, 

temperature, and turbidity may limit the seasonal movements of the 

dwarf sawfish (Blaber et al., 1989).


Age and Growth


    While small compared to other sawfishes, the maximum size of dwarf 

sawfish has been reported as: 4 ft 11 in (1.5 m) TL (Grant, 1991), 4 ft 

7 in (140 cm) TL (Last and Stevens, 1994; Rainboth, 1996; Compagno and 

Last, 1999), 10 ft (306 cm) TL (Peverell, 2005), and 11.5 ft (350 cm) 

TL (Peverell, 2005). Specimens from western Australia in 2008 indicate 

that females reach at least 10 ft 2 in (310 cm) TL (Morgan et al., 

2010a; Morgan et al., 2011).

    Thorburn et al. (2008) and Peverell (2008) estimated age and growth 

for this species based on the number of vertebral rings and total 

length. The average growth estimates for dwarf sawfish are 16.1 in 

(41cm) TL in the first year, slowing to 9.4 in (24cm) in the second 

year (Peverell 2008). Thorburn et al. (2008) determined that animals 

close to 3 ft (90 cm) TL were age 1, those between 3.5 and 4 ft (110 cm 

and 120 cm) TL were age 2, and those around 5 ft (160 cm) TL were age 

6. Peverell (2008) reported dwarf sawfish between 2 ft 11 in and 3 ft 3 in (90 and 

98 cm) TL were age 0, those between 3 ft 7 in and 5 ft 9 in (110-175 

cm) TL were considered 1 to 3 years old, and those between 6 ft 7 in 

and 8 ft (201-244 cm) TL were considered 4 to 6 years old (Peverell, 

2008). Any dwarf sawfish over 9 ft 10 in (300 cm) TL is considered to 

be at least 9 years old (Morgan et al., 2010a). The theoretical maximum 

age calculated from von Bertalanffy parameters for dwarf sawfish is 94 

years (Peverell, 2008).




    There is little information available regarding the time or 

location of dwarf sawfish mating. It is hypothesized dwarf sawfish move 

into estuarine or fresh waters to breed during the wet season (Larson 

et al., 2006), however no information on pupping habitat, gestation 

period, or litter size has been recorded (Morgan et al., 2010a).

    Dwarf sawfish are born between 2 ft 2 in and 2 ft 8 in (65 cm and 

81 cm) TL (Morgan et al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2011). Males become 

sexually mature between 9 ft 8 in and 10 ft (295 and 306 cm) TL with 

fully calcified claspers, though they may mature at smaller sizes, 

around 8 ft 5 in (255-260 cm) TL (Peverell, 2005; Thorburn et al., 

2008; Last and Stevens, 2009; Morgan et al., 2011). All males captured 

by Thorburn et al. (2008) less than 7 ft 5 in (226 cm) TL were 

immature; two females, both smaller than 3 ft 11 in (120 cm) TL, were 

also immature. There is little specific information about sexual 

maturation of females; females are considered immature at 6 ft 11 in 

(210 cm) TL (Peverell, 2005; Peverell, 2008; Morgan et al., 2010a). 

Wueringer et al. (2009) indicates that neither males nor females are 

mature before 7 ft 8 in (233 cm) TL.

    Intrinsic rates of population increase, based on life history data 

from Peverell (2008), has been estimated to be about 0.10 per year 

(Moreno Iturria, 2012), with a population doubling time of 7.2 years.


Diet and Feeding


    Dwarf sawfish, like other sawfishes, uses its saw to stun small 

schooling fishes. They may also use the saw for rooting in the mud and 

sand for crustaceans and mollusks (Breder Jr., 1952; Raje and Joshi, 

2003; Larson et al., 2006; Last and Stevens, 2009). In Western 

Australia, the dwarf sawfish eats shrimp, mullet, herring, and croaker 

(Thorburn et al., 2008; Morgan et al., 2010a).


Population Structure


    Phillips et al. (2011) conducted a genetic study looking at mtDNA 

of dwarf sawfish and found no distinct difference in dwarf sawfish from 

the west coast of Australia and those from the Gulf of Carpentaria in 

northern Australia. The genetic diversity of this species was moderate 

overall; however, dwarf sawfish from the Gulf of Carpentaria may have a 

lower genetic diversity than those of the west coast, possibly due to 

either a small sample size or a reduction in abundance (Phillips et 

al., 2008). Further declines in abundance as well as genetic drift may 

result in reduced genetic diversity (Morgan et al., 2010a; Morgan et 

al., 2011).

    Later, Phillips et al. (2011), using additional samples determined 

the populations of the dwarf sawfish are organized matrilineally (from 

mother to daughter), indicating the possibility that females are 

philopatric (return to their birth place). Genetic analysis of dwarf 

sawfish on the northern coast of Australia determined that they were 

distinct from those in other areas (Phillips et al., 2011). While the 

genetic diversity of this species is considered low to moderate across 

Australia, haplotype diversity in the Gulf of Carpentaria was very low 

but was greater in the west compared to the east. Low diversity among 

and within groups of dwarf sawfish may be detrimental (Phillips et al., 



Distribution and Abundance


    Dwarf sawfish are thought to historically occur in the Indo-

Pacific, western Pacific, and eastern Indian Oceans, with the 

population largely occurring in northern Australia (Last and Stevens, 

1994; Last and Compagno, 2002; Compagno, 2002a; Compagno, 2002b; 

Thorburn et al., 2008; Wueringer et al., 2009; Morgan et al., 2010a). 

While dwarf sawfish may have been historically more widespread 

throughout the Indo-West Pacific (Compagno and Last 1999, Last and 

Stevens, 2009), there are questions regarding records outside of 

Australian waters (DSEWPaC, 2011). In an effort to gather more 

information on the historic and current range and abundance, we 

conducted an extensive search of peer-reviewed publications and 

technical reports, newspaper, and magazine articles. A summary of those 

findings is presented below by major geographic region.


Indian Ocean


    Dwarf sawfish are considered extremely rare in the Indian Ocean and 

there are few records indicating its current presence (Last, 2002). 

Faria et al. (2013) report dwarf sawfish from the Indian Ocean: a 

female from the Reunion Islands, a female from an unidentified location 

in the Indian Ocean, and a male from India. There are no reports of 

dwarf sawfish from Sri Lanka in more than a decade, although they have 

been assumed to occur there (Last, 2002).


Indo-Pacific (excluding Australia)


    Dwarf sawfish are considered very rare in Indonesia, with only a 

few records (Last, 2002). Faria et al. (2013) compiled most reports of 

dwarf sawfish in Indonesia; since the first record in 1894, there has 

been two rostral saws in 1910, and 5 other rostra without date or 

length information.

    Although reported historically, dwarf sawfish have not been 

reported from most other areas in the Indo-Pacific in over a decade. 

The most recent report of a dwarf sawfish in Thailand was in the Mekong 

River Basin, Laos in 1996. No sawfish species, including the dwarf 

sawfish, were reported from the South China Sea from 1923-1996 

(Compagno, 2002a).


Pacific Ocean


    Very few reports of the dwarf sawfish have been recorded in the 

western Pacific Ocean. Deynat (2005) reported on two skin samples from 

a juvenile female found in Tasmanian waters, and Faria et al. (2013) 

reported on two additional specimens but no specifics were provided.




    Australia likely represents the center of the range of dwarf 

sawfish. Dwarf sawfish have been reported from Cairns to the east 

through the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north and through Kimberley to 

the west (Compagno and Last, 1999, Last and Stevens, 2009).

    Most records for dwarf sawfish are from the north and northwest 

areas of Australia. The earliest record of this species is from 1877 

(Faria et al., 2013). A single rostrum from a dwarf sawfish was found 

in 1916, but no other information was recorded. In 1946, a number of 

dwarf sawfish were reported (Faria et al., 2013).

    Most records over the last 30 years have been from north and 

northwest Australia. Five female and five male dwarf sawfish (32-55 in; 

82-140 cm TL) were captured in 1990 in the Pentecost River using 

gillnets (Taniuchi and Shimizu, 1991; Taniuchi, 2002). Between 1994 and 

2010, almost 75 tissue samples were taken from live dwarf sawfish or 

dried rostra from the Gulf of Carpentaria and the northwest coast of Australia (Phillips et 

al., 2011). In 1997, two specimens were collected near the mouth of 

Buffalo Creek in Darwin, Northern Territory (Chisholm and Whittington, 

2000). In 2005, Naylor et al. (2005) collected one dwarf sawfish from 

Darwin, Australia. One dwarf sawfish was captured in 1998 in the upper 

reaches of the Keep River estuary (Larson, 1999; Gunn et al., 2010). 

One interaction was reported between 2007 and 2010 by observers in the 

Northern Territory Offshore Net and Line Fishery (Davies, 2010). A 

single specimen from Queensland (eastern Australia) is preserved at the 

Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology (Fowler, 1941).

    In a comprehensive survey of the Gulf of Carpentaria from 2001-

2002, Peverell (2005; 2008) indicated dwarf sawfish were concentrated 

in the western portion of the Gulf of Carpentaria; twelve males and ten 

females were captured. Most individuals caught in the inshore fishery 

were immature except for two mature males: 10 ft and 9 ft 8 in (306 cm 

and 296 cm) TL (Peverell, 2005; 2008).

    In northwestern Australia within specific riverine basins, dwarf 

sawfish have been reported in various surveys. Forty-four dwarf sawfish 

were captured between October 2002 and July 2004 in the King Sound and 

the Robison, May, and Fitzroy Rivers (Thorburn et al., 2008). Between 

2001 and 2002, one dwarf sawfish was caught at the mouth of the Fitzroy 

River in western Australia (Morgan et al., 2004). Morgan et al. (2011) 

acquired 109 rostra from dwarf sawfish from the King Sound area that 

were part of museum or personal collections.

    In summary, there is some uncertainty in the species identification 

of historic records of dwarf sawfish, the intense fishing pressures 

within the range has likely caused the dwarf sawfish to become 

extirpated from much of the Indo-Pacific region and the species appears 

to be extirpated from eastern Australia. An October 2001 study on the 

effectiveness of turtle excluder devices in the prawn trawl fishery in 

Queensland, Australia, reported no dwarf sawfish (Courtney et al., 

2006). Dwarf sawfish are now considered rare in the Gulf of 

Carpentaria. It is likely the Kimberley territory and Pilbara region 

(western Australia) may be the last significant remaining areas for 

dwarf sawfish (P. Kyne pers. comm. to IUCN, 2012).


Natural History of the Largetooth Sawfish (Pristis pristis)


Taxonomy and Morphology


    Many have suggested classification of largetooth sawfish into a 

single circumtropical species given common morphological features of 

robust rostrum, origin of first dorsal fin anterior to origin of pelvic 

fins, and presence of a caudal-fin lower lobe (G[uuml]nther, 1870; 

Garman, 1913; Fowler, 1936; Poll, 1951; Dingerkus, 1983; Daget, 1984; 

S[eacute]ret and McEachran, 1986; McEachran and Fechhelm, 1998; 

Carvalho et al., 2007). The recent analysis by Faria et al. (2013) used 

mtDNA and contemporary genetic analysis to argue the previously 

classified P. pristis, P. microdon, and P. perotteti should now be 

considered one species named P. pristis. After reviewing Faria et al. 

(2013) and consulting other sawfish experts we conclude, based on the 

best available information, that P. pristis applies to all the 

largetooth sawfishes previously identified as P. pristis, P. microdon, 

and P. perotteti. The largetooth sawfish has a robust rostrum, 

noticeably widening posteriorly (width between the two posterior-most 

rostral teeth is 1.7-2 times the width between the second anterior-most 

rostral teeth). Rostral teeth number is between 14 and 23 per side with 

grooves on the posterior margin. The body is robust with the origin of 

the first dorsal-fin anterior to the origin of the pelvic fin; dorsal 

fins are high and pointed with the height of the second dorsal fin 

greater than the first. The lower lobe of the caudal-fin is small but 

well-defined with the lower anterior margin about half as long as the 

upper anterior margin (Wallace, 1967; Taniuchi et al., 1991a; Last and 

Stevens, 1994; Compagno and Last, 1999; Deynat, 2005; Wueringer et al., 

2009; Morgan et al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2010b; Morgan et al., 2011).

    The largetooth sawfish has buccopharyngeal denticles and regularly 

overlapping monocuspidate dermal denticles on its skin. The denticles 

are present on both dorsal and ventral portions of the body (Wallace, 

1967; Deynat, 2005). Within the mouth, there are between 70 and 72 

tooth rows on the upper jaw, and 64-68 tooth rows on the lower jaw. The 

number of vertebrae is between 226 and 228 (Morgan et al., 2010a). 

Coloration of the largetooth sawfish is a reddish brown dorsally and 

dull white ventrally (Fowler, 1941; Wallace, 1967; Compagno et al., 

1989; Taniuchi et al., 1991a; Compagno and Last, 1999; Chidlow, 2007).

    Male and female largetooth sawfish differ in the number of rostral 

teeth. Using largetooth sawfish teeth collected from Papua New Guinea 

and Australia, Ishihara et al. (1991b) found males to have an average 

of 21 rostral teeth on the left and 22 on the right; females averaged 

19 rostral teeth on both the left and the right side of the rostrum. 

Rostrum length can vary between males and females (Wueringer et al., 



Habitat Use and Migration


    Largetooth sawfish are commonly found in coastal, inshore waters 

and are considered euryhaline (Compagno et al., 1989; Last and Stevens, 

1994; Compagno and Last, 1999; Chisholm and Whittington, 2000; Last, 

2002; Compagno, 2002b; Peverell, 2005; Peverell, 2008; Wueringer et 

al., 2009), being found in salinities ranging from 0 to 40 ppt 

(Thorburn et al., 2007). The species has been found far upriver, often 

occupying freshwater lakes and pools; they are associated with 

freshwater more than any other sawfish species (Last and Stevens, 1994; 

Rainboth, 1996; Peter and Tan, 1997; Compagno and Last, 1999; Larson, 

1999). Largetooth sawfish have even been observed in isolated fresh 

water billabongs or pools until floodwaters allow them to escape; 

juveniles often use these areas for multiple years as deep water 

refuges (Gorham, 2006; Thorburn et al., 2007; Wueringer et al., 2009; 

Morgan et al., 2010b). Similarly, largetooth sawfish have been found in 

Lake Nicaragua in depths up to 400 ft (122 m) and are common in deeper 

holes, occupying muddy or sandy bottoms (NMFS, 2010a).

    Adults more often utilize marine habitats than juveniles, and are 

typically found in waters with salinity at 31 ppt (Wueringer et al., 

2009). Despite the variety of habitats occupied, females have been 

found to be highly philopatric as indicated by mtDNA studies, while 

males often undergo long movements (Lack et al., 2009; Phillips et al., 

2009; Morgan et al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2010b; Morgan et al., 2011). 

Within the Gulf of Mexico, America, mature largetooth sawfish have 

historically moved as far north as Texas (NMFS, 2010a).

    The physical characteristics of habitat strongly influence the 

movements and areas utilized by largetooth sawfish. Recruitment of 

neonate largetooth sawfish was correlated with the rise in water levels 

during the wet season in Australia (Whitty et al., 2009). A study of 

juvenile largetooth sawfish movements in the Fitzroy River in Australia 

found young-of-the-year utilize extremely shallow areas (0-1 ft 7 in or 

0-0.49 m) up to 80 percent of the time, mostly to avoid predators


[[Page 33307]]


(Thorburn et al., 2007). Juveniles and adult largetooth sawfish also 

utilize rivers (Compagno, 2002b; Gorham, 2006) and can be found in 

areas up to 248.5 miles (400 km) upstream (Chidlow, 2007). Activity 

space of largetooth sawfish increases with body length (Whitty et al., 



Age and Growth


    There are several age and growth studies for the largetooth 

sawfish; results vary due to differences in aging techniques, data 

collection, or location. At birth, largetooth sawfish are between 2 ft 

6 in and 3 ft (76 and 91 cm) TL, with females being slightly smaller 

than males on average (Chidlow, 2007; Morgan et al., 2011). Thorson 

(1982) found pups at birth average 2 ft 4.7 in to 2 ft 7.5 in (73-80 

cm) TL with a growth rate of 35-40 cm per year (NMFS, 2010a). Juveniles 

(age 1 to age at maturity) range in size from 2 ft 6 in to 9 ft (76 to 

277 cm) TL (Morgan et al., 2011).

    Size at maturity is estimated to be around 9 ft 10 in (300 cm) TL 

for both sexes at around age 8 (Lack et al., 2009; Morgan et al., 

2010a; Morgan et al., 2010b; NMFS, 2010; Morgan et al., 2011). Thorson 

(1982) estimated age of maturity to be 10 years at 9 ft 10 in (300 cm) 

TL in Lake Nicaragua (NMFS, 2010a). Generally, males under 7 ft 7 in 

(230 cm) TL and females under 8 ft 10 in (270 cm) TL are considered 

immature (Whitty et al., 2009; Wueringer et al., 2009).

    The largest recorded length of a largetooth sawfish is 22 ft 11 in 

(700 cm) TL (Compagno et al., 1989; Last and Stevens, 1994; Rainboth, 

1996; Peter and Tan, 1997; Compagno and Last, 1999; Thorburn and 

Morgan, 2005; Compagno et al., 2006b; Chidlow, 2007; NMFS, 2010a). The 

largest largetooth sawfish recorded in Kimberley, Queensland measured 

21 ft 6 in (656 cm) TL (Morgan et al., 2011). In other areas of 

Australia, the largetooth sawfish can reach up to 15 ft (457 cm) and at 

least 11 ft 10 in (361 cm) TL (Fowler, 1941; Chidlow, 2007; Gunn et 

al., 2010).

    Age and growth for largetooth sawfish has been estimated by Tanaka 

(1991) who generated a von Bertalanffy growth model for specimens 

collected from Papua New Guinea and Australia. For both sexes combined, 

the theoretical maximum size was calculated at 11 ft 11 in (363 cm) TL 

with a relative growth rate of 0.066 per year. Based on these 

calculations, it was determined that largetooth sawfish grow around 7 

in (18 cm) in the first year and 4 in (10 cm) by the tenth year. 

Thorson (1982a) estimated an early juvenile growth rate of 13-15 in 

(35-40 cm) per year and annual adult growth rate of 1 in (4.4 cm) per 

year based on largetooth from Lake Nicaragua. Peverell (2008) 

calculated a theoretical maximum size of 20 ft 11 in (638 cm) TL with a 

relative growth rate of 0.08 per year. The theoretical maximum age 

estimated for this species has been calculated to be 80 years (Morgan 

et al., 2010a).




    Largetooth sawfish are thought to reproduce in freshwater 

environments (Compagno and Last, 1999; Last, 2002; Compagno, 2002b; 

Martin, 2005; Thorburn and Morgan, 2005; Compagno et al., 2006b) from 

May to July (Raje and Joshi, 2003). The number of pups in a largetooth 

sawfish litter varies by location, and possibly due to other factors. 

One of the earliest reproductive studies on largetooth sawfish by 

Thorson (1976a) indicated litter size ranged between 1 to 13 pups, with 

an average of 7 pups per cycle (NMFS, 2010a). Thorson (1976a) also 

found that both ovaries appeared to be functional, though the left 

seemed to be larger and carry more ova (NMFS, 2010a). Length of 

gestation for largetooth sawfish is approximately five months, with a 

biennial reproductive cycle (NMFS, 2010a). Chidlow (2007) reported 

largetooth sawfish had litters with up to 12 pups.

    Intrinsic rates of population growth vary tremendously throughout 

the species range. Simpfendorfer (2000) estimated that the largetooth 

sawfish in Lake Nicaragua had an intrinsic rate of population growth of 

0.05 to 0.07 per year, with a population doubling time of 10.3 to 13.6 

years. Using data from Australia, rates of population increase were 

estimated to be around 0.12 per year (Moreno Iturria, 2012), with a 

population doubling time of approximately 5.8 years. Data from the 

western Atlantic Ocean indicate an intrinsic rate of increase of 0.03 

per year, with a population doubling time of 23.3 years (Moreno 

Iturria, 2012).


Diet and Feeding


    Largetooth sawfish diet is predominately fish, but varies depending 

on study and geographic area. Small fishes including seer fish, 

mackerels, ribbon fish, sciaenids, and pomfrets are likely main diet 

items of largetooth sawfish in the Indian Ocean (Devadoss, 1978; 

Rainboth, 1996; Raje and Joshi, 2003). Small sharks, mollusks, and 

crustaceans are also potential prey items (Devadoss, 1978; Rainboth, 

1996; Raje and Joshi, 2003). Taniuchi et al., (1991a) found small 

fishes and shrimp in the stomachs of juveniles in Lake Murray, Papua 

New Guinea, while juvenile sawfish in western Australia had catfish, 

cherabin, mollusks, and insect parts in their stomachs (Thorburn et 

al., 2007; Whitty et al., 2009; Morgan et al., 2010a). Largetooth 

sawfish have also been found to feed on catfish, shrimp, small 

crustaceans, croaker, and mollusks (Chidlow, 2007; Thorburn et al., 

2007; Morgan et al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2010b). Largetooth sawfish 

captured off South Africa had bony fish and shellfish as common diet 

items (Compagno et al., 1989; Compagno and Last, 1999). In general, 

largetooth sawfish subsist on the most abundant small schooling fishes 

in the area (NMFS, 2010a).


Population Structure


    Genetic analyses based on a 480 base pair sequencing of the mtDNA 

gene NADH-2 sequence revealed information indicating largetooth sawfish 

subpopulations. Evidence of restricted gene flow has also been found 

with largetooth sawfish among these geographic areas: Atlantic and 

Indo-West Pacific; Atlantic and eastern Pacific; and Indo-West Pacific 

and eastern Pacific. Collectively a total of 19 haplotypes were 

identified across largetooth sawfish: one east Pacific haplotype; 12 

western Atlantic haplotypes, two eastern Atlantic haplotypes; one 

Indian Ocean haplotype, one Vietnamese-New Guinean haplotype, and two 

Australian haplotypes (Faria et al., 2013). This fine-scale structuring 

of sub-populations by haplotypes was only partially corroborated by the 

regional variation in the number of rostral teeth. While the rostral 

tooth count differed significantly in largetooth sawfish collected from 

the western and eastern Atlantic Ocean, it did not vary significantly 

between specimens collected from the Indian Ocean and western Pacific 

(Faria et al., 2013). Largetooth sawfish collected from the western 

Atlantic specimens had a higher rostral teeth count than those 

collected from the eastern Atlantic. Data from separate protein and 

genetics studies indicates some evidence of distinction among sub-

populations of largetooth sawfish in the Indo-Pacific. At a broad 

scale, Watabe (1991) found that there was limited genetic variability 

between samples taken from Australia and Papua New Guinea based on 

lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) isozyme patterns. Largetooth sawfish might 

be genetically subdivided within the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia, 

with both eastern and western gulf populations (Lack et al., 2009).

    Phillips et al. (2011) found that the population of largetooth 

sawfish in the Gulf of Carpentaria is different from


[[Page 33308]]


animals on the west coast of Australia (Fitzroy River) based on mtDNA. 

Recent data (Phillips, 2012) suggests that matrilineal structuring is 

found at relatively small spatial scales within the Gulf of Carpentaria 

region (i.e., this region contains more than one maternal 

`population'), although the precise location and nature of population 

boundaries are unknown. The difference in the genetic structuring using 

markers with different modes of inheritance (maternal versus bi-

parental) suggests that largetooth sawfish may have male-biased 

dispersal and with females remaining at, or returning to, their birth 

place to mate (Phillips et al., 2009, Phillips, 2012). Phillips (2012) 

noted that the presence of male gene flow between populations in 

Australian waters suggests that a decline of males in one location 

could affect the abundance and genetic diversity of assemblages in 

other locations.

    The genetic diversity for largetooth sawfish throughout Australia 

seems to be low to moderate. Genetic diversity was greater in the Gulf 

of Carpentaria than in rivers in Australia, also suggesting potential 

philopatry (Lack et al., 2009). However, given limited sampling, 

additional research is needed to better understand potential population 

structure of largetooth sawfish in Australia (Lack et al., 2009; 

Phillips et al., 2009; Morgan et al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2010b).


Distribution and Abundance


    Largetooth sawfish have the largest historic range of all 

sawfishes. The species historically occurred throughout the Indo-

Pacific near southeast Asia and Australia and throughout the Indian 

Ocean to east Africa. Largetooth sawfish have also been noted in the 

eastern Pacific Ocean from Mexico to Ecuador (Cook et al., 2005) or 

possibly Peru (Chirichigno and Cornejo, 2001). In the Atlantic Ocean, 

largetooth sawfish inhabit warm temperate to tropical marine waters 

from Brazil to the Gulf of Mexico in the western Atlantic, and Namibia 

to Mauritania in the eastern Atlantic (Burgess et al., 2009). Older 

literature notes the presence of this species in Zanzibar, Madagascar, 

India, and the south-west Pacific (Fowler, 1941; Wallace, 1967; 

Taniuchi et al., 2003).

    Given the recent taxonomic changes for largetooth sawfish, we 

examined all current and historic records of P. microdon, P. perotteti, 

and P. pristis for a comprehensive overview on distribution and 

abundance. We conducted an extensive search of peer-reviewed 

publications and technical reports, newspaper, and magazine articles. 

The result of that search is summarized below by major geographic 



Indian Ocean


    Largetooth sawfish historically occurred throughout the Indian 

Ocean; however current records are rare for many areas. The earliest 

record of largetooth sawfish was in 1936 from Grand Lac near the Gulf 

of Aden, Indian Ocean (Kottelat, 1985). A second record in 1936 is from 

Mangoky River, Madagascar (Taniuchi et al., 2003).

    Records from the 1960's and 1970's are largely from India and South 

Africa. One largetooth sawfish was reported from the confluence of the 

Lundi and Sabi Rivers, South Africa in 1960, over 200 miles inland 

(Jubb, 1967). Between 1964 and 1966, several largetooth sawfish were 

caught in the Zambesi River, South Africa during a general survey of 

rays and skates; they have also been recorded in the shark nets off 

Durban, South Africa (Wallace, 1967). In 1966, a male (10 ft; 305 cm 

TL) was captured in a trawl net in the Gulf of Mannar, Sri Lanka (Gunn 

et al., 2010). Largetooth sawfish were commonly caught between 1973 and 

1974 in the Bay of Bengal during the wet season (July and September) 

but rarely during other times of the year (Devadoss, 1978). Largetooth 

sawfish are also recorded in three major rivers that empty into the Bay 

of Bengal: the Pennaiyar, Paravanar, and Gadilam (Devadoss, 1978).

    Current reports of largetooth sawfish throughout the Indian Ocean 

are isolated and rare. While the species could not be confirmed, a 

survey of fishing landing sites and interviews with 99 fishers in 

Kenya, Nyungi (unpublished report to J. Carlson, NMFS 2007), found 71 

reports of sawfishes over the last 40 years. The longest time series of 

largetooth sawfish catches is from the protective beach nets off Natal, 

South Africa with a yearly average capture rate of 0.2 sawfish per 0.6 

mi (1 km) net per year from 1981 to 1990; since then only two specimens 

have been caught in the last decade (CITES, 2007). Largetooth sawfish 

were reported in Cochin, India by the Central Marine Fisheries Research 

Institute in 1994, but no information about location, size or number of 

animals is available (Dan et al., 1994). Commercial landings of 

elasmobranchs from 1981 to 2000 in the Bay of Bengal were mostly rays 

with some largetooth sawfish (Raje and Joshi, 2003). In the Betsiboka 

River, Madagascar, four largetooth sawfish were caught in 2001. The 

most recent capture of largetooth sawfish (18 ft; 550 cm TL) in India 

occurred on January 18, 2011, between Karnataka and Goa 



Indo-Pacific Ocean (excluding Australia)


    Many islands within the Indo-Pacific region contain suitable 

habitat for largetooth sawfish, but few reports are available, perhaps 

due to the lack of surveys or data reporting. The earliest records of 

largetooth sawfish from the Indo-Pacific are from a compilation study 

of elasmobranchs in the waters off Thailand that reports a largetooth 

sawfish in the Chao Phraya River and its tributaries in 1945 

(Vidthayanon, 2002). In 1955, two largetooth sawfish were captured from 

Lake Santani (present day Irian Jaya, Indonesia). Juvenile largetooth 

sawfish had also been reported around the same time in a freshwater 

river close to Genjem, Indonesia (Boeseman, 1956). In 1956, largetooth 

sawfish were recorded in Lake Sentani, New Guinea (Boeseman, 1956; 

Thorson et al., 1966). However, in a study by Munro (1967) in the 

Laloki River in the southeastern portion of New Guinea, no sawfish were 

captured (Berra et al., 1975). From 1967 to 1977, five largetooth 

sawfish were captured from the Indragiri River, Sumatra (Taniuchi, 

2002). From 1970 to 1971, Berra et al. (1975) collected five largetooth 

sawfish from the Laloki River, Papua New Guinea.

    More recently, 36 largetooth sawfish were captured in September 

1989 in Papua New Guinea (Taniuchi and Shimizu, 1991; Taniuchi, 2002). 

In a survey of the Fly River system, Papau New Guinea, 23 individuals 

were captured in 1978 (Roberts, 1978; Taniuchi and Shimizu, 1991; 

Taniuchi et al., 1991b; Taniuchi, 2002). The presence of largetooth 

sawfish in the Mahakam River, Borneo was recorded in 1987 (Christensen, 

1992). Three largetooth sawfish rostra were acquired from local fish 

markets in Sabah in 1996 (Manjaji, 2002a) and survey indicate 

largetooth sawfish are still present in these areas, although locals 

have noticed a decline in their abundance (Manjaji, 2002a).

    The scarcity of records from Indonesia led to an increased effort 

to document species presence (Fowler, 2002). Anecdotal evidence 

suggests that sawfishes have not been recorded in Indonesia for more 

than 25 years (White and Last, 2010). Largetooth sawfish have not been 

recorded in the Mekong River, Laos for decades (Rainboth, 1996). In a 

comprehensive study compiled by Compagno (2002a), no sawfishes were 

found in the south China Sea between the years of 1923 and 1996. Data 

from 200 survey days at fish landing sites in


[[Page 33309]]


eastern Indonesia between 2001 and 2005 recorded over 40,000 

elasmobranchs, but only two largetooth sawfish (White and Dharmadi, 



Australian Waters


    Australia may have a higher abundance of largetooth sawfish than 

other areas within the species' current range (Thorburn and Morgan, 

2005; Field et al., 2009). Despite their current abundance levels, we 

only identified a few historic records from Australia. The first record 

of a largetooth sawfish was in 1945 in the Northern Territory (Stevens 

et al., 2005). Faria et al. (2013) obtained a rostrum that was 

collected in Australia in 1960.

    The most current reports of largetooth sawfish began in the 1980's. 

We found many more records of largetooth sawfish in Australia compared 

to other countries. A largetooth sawfish was captured from the Keep 

River, Australia in 1981 (Compagno and Last, 1999). Blaber et al. 

(1990) found that largetooth sawfish were among the top twenty-five 

most abundant species in the trawl fisheries of Albatross Bay from 1986 

to 1988. Eight individuals were captured in the Leichhardt River in 

2008 (Morgan et al., 2010b). In a preliminary survey of the McArthur 

River, Northern Territory, Gorham (2006) reported two largetooth 

sawfish captured between 2002 and 2006. Surveys (Peverell, 2005; Gill 

et al., 2006; Peverell, 2008) in the Gulf of Carpentaria found 

largetooth sawfish widely distributed throughout the eastern portion of 

the Gulf with most catches occurring near the mouth of many rivers 

(Mitchell, Gilbert, Archer, Nassau, Ord, and Staaten).

    Juvenile largetooth sawfish in Australia use the Fitzroy River and 

other tributaries of the King Sound (Morgan et al., 2004) as nursery 

areas while adults are found more often offshore (Morgan et al., 

2010a). Outside of the Fitzroy River and King Sound in western 

Australia, the only other areas where juvenile sawfish have been 

recently recorded are in Willie Creek and Roebuck Bay (Gill et al., 

2006; Morgan et al., 2011). Nursery areas for largetooth sawfish are 

also reported in northern Australia in the Gulf of Carpentaria (Gorham, 

2006). Despite the abundance of records from northern Australia, no 

sawfish have recently been captured within the Adelaide River, 

Australia, and abundance estimates from areas that have higher human 

populations may be declining (Taniuchi and Shimizu, 1991; Taniuchi et 

al., 1991a; Morgan et al., 2010a). Whitty et al. (2009) found that the 

population of juvenile largetooth sawfish in the Fitzroy River have 

declined in recent years as catch per unit effort was 56.7 sawfish per 

100 hours in 2003, compared to 12.4 in 2009. There were no reported 

captures of largetooth sawfish in 2008 from the Roper River system, 

which drains into the western Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory 

(Dally and Larson, 2008). No adult sawfish were captured in any of the 

prawn trawl fisheries in Queensland, Australia during the month of 

October 2001 (Courtney et al., 2006).

    Outside the northern and western areas of Australia, largetooth 

sawfish do occur but reports are less frequent. In southwestern 

Australian waters, one female sawfish was captured by a commercial 

shark fisherman in February 2003, east of Cape Naturaliste (Chidlow, 

2007). Data from the Queensland, Australia Shark Control Program shows 

a clear decline in sawfish catch over a 30 year period from the 1960's, 

and the complete disappearance of sawfish in southern regions by 1993 

(Stevens et al., 2005).


Eastern Pacific


    In the eastern Pacific, the historic range of largetooth sawfish 

was from Mazatlan, Mexico to Guayaquil, Ecuador (Cook et al., 2005) or 

possibly Peru (Chirichigno and Cornejo, 2001). There is very little 

information on the population status in this region and few reports of 

capture records. The species has been reported in freshwater in the 

Tuyra, Culebra, Tilapa, Chucunaque, Bayeno, and Rio Sambu Rivers, and 

at the Balboa and Miraflores locks in the Panama Canal, Panama; Rio San 

Juan, Colombia; and in the Rio Goascoran, along the border of El 

Salvador and Honduras (Fowler, 1936; 1941; Beebe and Tee-Van, 1941; 

Bigelow and Schroeder, 1953; Thorson et al., 1966a; Dahl, 1971; 

Thorson, 1974; 1976; 1982a; 1982b, 1987; Compagno and Cook, 1995; all 

as cited in Cook et al., 2005). The only recent reports of largetooth 

sawfish in this area are anecdotal reports from Columbia, Nicaragua, 

and Panama (R. Graham pers. comm. to IUCN, 2012).


Western Atlantic Ocean


    In the western Atlantic Ocean, largetooth sawfish were widely 

distributed throughout the marine and estuarine waters in tropical and 

subtropical climates and historically found from Brazil through the 

Caribbean, Central America, the Gulf of Mexico, and seasonally into 

waters of the U.S. (Burgess et al., 2009). Largetooth sawfish also 

occurred in freshwater habitats in Central and South America. 

Throughout the Caribbean Sea, the historical presence of the largetooth 

sawfish is uncertain and early records might have been misidentified 

smalltooth sawfish (G. Burgess pers. comm. to IUCN, 2012).

    Historic records of largetooth sawfish in the western north 

Atlantic have been previously reported in NMFS (2010a). Sawfish were 

documented in Central America in Nicaragua as early as 1529 by a 

Spanish chronicler (Gill and Bransford, 1877). This species was also 

historically reported in Nicaragua by Meek (1907), Regan (1908), Marden 

(1944), Bigelow and Schroeder (1953) and Hagberg (1968). Five 

largetooth sawfish were from a survey of Lake Izaba, Guatemala from 

1946 to 1947, and sawfishes were reported to be important inland 

fisheries (Saunders et al., 1950). The lone largetooth sawfish reported 

from Honduras was acquired from that country, but the true origin of 

the rostrum and the date of capture could not be confirmed (NMFS, 


    In Atlantic drainages, largetooth sawfish were found in freshwater 

at least 833 miles (1,340 km) from the ocean in the Amazon River system 

(Manacapuru, Brazil), as well as in Lake Nicaragua and the San Juan 

River; the Rio Coco, on the border of Nicaragua and Honduras; Rio 

Patuca, Honduras; Lago de Izabal, Rio Motagua, and Rio Dulce, 

Guatemala; and the Belize River, Belize. Largetooth sawfish are found 

in Mexican streams that flow into the Gulf of Mexico; Las Lagunas Del 

Tortuguero, Rio Parismina, Rio Pacuare, and Rio Matina, Costa Rica; and 

the Rio San Juan and the Magdalena River, Colombia; (Thorson, 1974; 

1982b; Castro-Augiree, 1978 as cited in Thorson, 1982b; Compagno and 

Cook, 1995; C. Scharpf and M. McDavitt, pers. comm., as cited in Cook 

et al., 2005).

    In the U.S., largetooth sawfish were reported in the Gulf of Mexico 

mainly along the Texas coast east into Florida waters, though nearly 

all records of largetooth sawfish encountered in U.S. waters were 

limited to the Texas coast (NMFS, 2010a). Though reported in the U.S., 

it appears that largetooth sawfish were never abundant, with 

approximately 39 confirmed records (33 in Texas) from 1910 through 


    The Amazon River basin and adjacent waters are traditionally the 

most abundant known range of largetooth sawfish in Brazil (Bates 1964; 

Marlier 1967; Furneau 1969). Most of the records for which location is 

known originated in the state of Amazonas, which encompasses the middle 

section of the Amazon River basin along with the confluence of the Rio 

Negro and Rio Solimoes Rivers. The other known locations are from the 

states of Rio Grande do Norte, Sergipe, Bahia, Espirito Santo, Rio de 

Janeiro, and Sao 

Paulo, Para, and Maranhao (NMFS, 2010a). Most records of largetooth 

sawfish in the Amazon River (Amazonia) predate 1974. The Magdalena 

River estuary was the primary source for largetooth sawfish encounters 

in Colombia from the 1940's (Miles, 1945), while other records 

originated from the Bahia de Cartagena and Isla de Salamanca (both 

marine), and Rio Sinu (freshwater) from the 1960's through the 1980's 

(Dahl, 1964; 1971; Frank and Rodriguez, 1976; Alvarez and Blanco 1985). 

In other areas of South America, there are only single records from 

Guyana, French Guiana, and Trinidad from the late 1800's and early 

1900's. Of the five records from Suriname, the most recent was 1962. 

Though thought to have once been abundant in some areas of Venezuela 

(Cervignon 1966a; 1966b), the most recent confirmed records of 

largetooth sawfish from that country was in 1962.

    Many records in the 1970's and 1980's are largely due to Thorson's 

(1982a; 1982b) research on the Lake Nicaragua-Rio San Juan system in 

Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Bussing (2002) indicated that this species 

was known to inhabit the Rio Tempisque and tributaries of the San Juan 

basin in Costa Rica. Following Thorson's (1982a; 1982b) studies, 

records of largetooth sawfish in the western North Atlantic decline 

considerably. By 1981, Thorson (1982a) was unable to locate a single 

live specimen in the original areas he surveyed. There are no known 

Nicaraguan records of the largetooth sawfish outside of the Lake 

Nicaragua-Rio San Juan-Rio Colorado system (Burgess et al., 2009), 

although largetooth sawfish are still captured incidentally by fishers 

netting for other species (McDavitt, 2002). Of the known largetooth 

sawfish reported from Mexico, most records are prior to 1978, and 

Caribbean records are very sparse (NMFS, 2010a). The last record of a 

largetooth sawfish in U.S. waters was in 1961 (Burgess et al., 2009).

    Most recent records for largetooth sawfish are in isolated areas. 

While many reports of largetooth sawfish from Brazil were from the 

1980's and 1990's (Lessa, 1986; Martins-Juras et al., 1987; Stride and 

Batista, 1992; Menni and Lessa, 1998; and Lessa et al., 1999), recent 

records indicate largetooth sawfish primarily in fish markets at the 

Amazon-Orinoco estuaries (Charvet-Almeida, 2002; Burgess et al., 2009). 

A Lake Nicaraguan fisherman reports he encounters a few sawfish 

annually (McDavitt, 2002). Other records are rare for the area. Three 

recent occurrences were found in Internet searches, one being a 200 lb. 

(90.7 kg) specimen caught recreationally in Costa Rica (Burgess et al., 

2009). Though reported by Thorson et al. (1966a; 1966b) to be common 

throughout the area, there are no recent reports of encounters with 

sawfishes in Guatemala. Scientists in Columbia have not reported any 

sawfish sightings between 1999 and 2009 (Burgess et al., 2009).


Eastern Atlantic Ocean


    Historic records indicate that largetooth sawfish were once 

relatively common in the coastal estuaries along the west coast of 

Africa. Verified records exist from Senegal (1841-1902), Gambia (1885-

1909), Guinea-Bissau (1912), Republic of Guinea (1965), Sierra Leone 

(date unknown), Liberia (1927), Cote d'Ivoire (1881-1923), Congo (1951-

1958), Democratic Republic of the Congo (1951-1959), and Angola (1951). 

Most records, however, lacked species identification and locality data 

and may have been confused taxonomically with other species. 

Unpublished notes from a 1950's survey detail 12 largetooth sawfish 

from Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, and Nigeria, ranging 

in size from 35-275 in (89-700 cm) TL (Burgess et al., 2009).

    A more recent status review by Ballouard et al. (2006) reported 

that sawfishes, including the largetooth sawfish, were once common from 

Mauritania to the Republic of Guinea, but are now rarely captured or 

encountered. According to this report, the range of sawfishes has 

decreased to the Bissagos Archipelago (Guinea Bissau). The most recent 

sawfish encounters outside Guinea Bissau were in the 1990's in 

Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, and the Republic of Guinea. The most 

recent documented largetooth sawfish capture was from 2005 in Nord de 

Caravela (Guinea Bissau), along with anecdotal accounts from fishers of 

captures off of two islands in the same area in 2008 (Burgess et al., 


    In summary, on a global scale, largetooth sawfish appear to have 

been severely fragmented throughout their historic range into isolated 

populations of low abundance. Largetooth sawfish are now considered 

very rare in many places where evidence is available, including parts 

of east Africa, India, parts of the Indo-Pacific region, Central and 

South America and west Africa. Even within areas like Australia and 

Brazil, the species is primarily located in remote areas. Information 

from genetic studies indicates that largetooth sawfish display strong 

sex-biased dispersal patterns; with females exhibiting patterns of 

natal philopatry while males move more broadly between populations 

(Phillips et al., 2011). Thus, the opportunity for re-establishment of 

these isolated populations is limited because any reduction in female 

abundance in one region is not likely to be replenished by migration 

from another region (Phillips, 2012).


Natural History of Green Sawfish (Pristis zijsron)


Taxonomy and Morphology


    Pristis zijsron (Bleeker 1851) is frequently known as the narrow 

snout sawfish or the green sawfish. Synonymous names include P. dubius 

(Gloerfelt-Tarp and Kailola, 1984; Van Oijen et al., 2007; Wueringer et 

al., 2009). An alternative spelling for this species' scientific name 

(P. zysron) is found in older literature, due to either inconsistent 

writing or errors in translation or transcription (Van Oijen et al., 


    The green sawfish has a slim saw with 25-32 small, slender rostral 

teeth; tooth count may vary geographically (Marichamy, 1969; Last and 

Stevens, 1994; Morgan et al., 2010a). Specimens collected along the 

west coast of Australia have 24-30 left rostral teeth and 23-30 right 

rostral teeth (Morgan et al., 2010a), although other reports are 23-34 

(Morgan et al., 2011). There have been no studies to determine sexual 

dimorphism from rostral tooth counts for green sawfish. The rostral 

teeth are generally denser near the base of the saw than at the apical 

part of the saw (Blegvad and Loppenthin, 1944). The total rostrum 

length is between 20.6-29.3 percent of the total length of the animal 

and may vary based on the number and size of individuals. In general, 

green sawfish have a greater rostrum length to total length ratio than 

other sawfish species (Morgan et al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2011).

    In terms of body morphology, the origin of the first dorsal fin on 

green sawfish is slightly posterior to the origin of pelvic fins. The 

lower caudal lobe is not well defined and there is no subterminal notch 

(Gloerfelt-Tarp and Kailola, 1984; Compagno et al., 1989; Last and 

Stevens, 1994; Compagno and Last, 1999; Bonfil and Abdallah, 2004; 

Wueringer et al., 2009; Morgan et al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2011). The 

green sawfish has limited buccopharyngeal denticles and regularly 

overlapping monocuspidate dermal denticles on its skin. As a result, 

there are no keels or furrows formed on the skin (Deynat, 2005). The 

aptly named green sawfish is greenish brown dorsally and white 

ventrally. This species might be confused with the dwarf or smalltooth

 sawfish due to its similar size and range (Compagno et al., 2006c).


Habitat Use and Migration


    The green sawfish mostly utilizes inshore, marine habitats, but it 

has been found in freshwater environments (Gloerfelt-Tarp and Kailola, 

1984; Compagno et al., 1989; Compagno, 2002b; Stevens et al., 2008; 

Wueringer et al., 2009). In the Gilbert and Walsh Rivers of Queensland, 

Australia, specimens have been captured as far as 149 miles (240 km) 

upriver (Grant, 1991). However, Morgan et al. (2010a; 2011) report 

green sawfish do not move into freshwater for any portion of its 

lifecycle. Like most sawfishes, the green sawfish prefers muddy bottoms 

in estuarine environments (Last, 2002). The maximum depth recorded for 

this species is 131 ft (40 m) but it is often found in much shallower 

waters, around 16 ft (5 m; Compagno and Last, 1999; Wueringer et al., 

2009). Adults tend to spend more time in offshore waters in Australia, 

as indicated by interactions with the offshore Pilbara Fish Trawl 

Fishery, while juveniles prefer protected, inshore waters (Morgan et 

al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2011).


Age and Growth


    At birth pups are between 2 ft and 2 ft 7 in (61 and 80 cm) TL. At 

age 1 green sawfish are generally around 4 ft 3 in (130 cm) TL (Morgan 

et al., 2010a). Peverell (2008) found between age 1-5, green sawfish 

measure between 4 ft 2 in and 8 ft 5 in (128 and 257 cm) TL, based on 

the vertebral analysis of six individuals (Peverell, 2008; Morgan et 

al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2011). A 12 ft 6 in (380 cm) TL green 

sawfish was found to be age 8, a 14 ft 4 in (438 cm) TL individual was 

found to be age 10, a 14 ft 9 in (449 cm) TL specimen was found to be 

age 16, and a 15 ft (482 cm) TL specimen was found to be age 18 

(Peverell, 2008; Morgan et al., 2011).

    Adult green sawfish often reach 16 ft 5 in (5 m) TL, but may grow 

as large as 23 ft (7 m) TL (Compagno et al., 1989; Grant, 1991; Last 

and Stevens, 1994; Compagno and Last, 1999; Bonfil and Abdallah, 2004; 

Compagno et al., 2006c; Morgan et al., 2010a). The largest green 

sawfish collected in Australia was estimated to be 19 ft 8 in (600 cm) 

TL based on a rostrum length of 5 ft 5 in (165.5 cm; Morgan et al., 

2010a; Morgan et al., 2011).

    Peverell (2008) completed an age and growth study for green sawfish 

using vertebral growth bands. Von Bertalanffy growth model parameters 

from both sexes combined resulted in estimated maximum theoretical size 

of 16 ft (482 cm) TL, relative growth rate of 0.12 per year and 

theoretical time at zero length of 1.12 yrs. The theoretical maximum 

age for this species is calculated to be 53 years (Peverell, 2008; 

Morgan et al., 2010a).




    Last and Stevens (2009) reported size at maturity for green sawfish 

at 9 ft 10 in (300 cm) TL, corresponding to age 9. In contrast, 

Peverell (2008) reported one mature individual of 12 ft 4 in (380 cm) 

TL and estimated its age as 9 yrs. Using the growth function from 

Peverell (2008) and assuming length of maturity at 118 in (300 cm), 

Moreno Iturria (2012) determined maturation is likely to occur at age 

5. Demographic models based on life history data from the Gulf of 

Carpentaria indicate the generation time is 14.6 years, the intrinsic 

rate of population increase is 0.02 per year, and population doubling 

time is approximately 28 years (Moreno Iturria, 2012).

    Green sawfish give birth to as many as 12 pups during the wet 

season (January through July; Last and Stevens, 1994; Peverell, 2008; 

Morgan et al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2011). In Western Australia, 

females are known to pup in areas between One Arm Point and Whim Creek, 

with limited data for all other areas (Morgan et al., 2010a; Morgan et 

al., 2011). The Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia is also a known nursery 

area for green sawfish (Gorham, 2006). It is not known where the green 

sawfish breed or length of gestation.


Diet and Feeding


    Like other sawfish, green sawfish use their rostra to stun small, 

schooling fishes, such as mullet, or use it to dig up benthic prey, 

including mollusks and crustaceans (Breder Jr., 1952; Rainboth, 1996; 

Raje and Joshi, 2003; Compagno et al., 2006c; Last and Stevens, 2009). 

One specimen captured in 1967 in the Indian Ocean had jacks and razor 

fish (Caranx and Centriscus) species in its stomach (Marichamy, 1969). 

In Australia, the diet of this species often includes shrimp, croaker, 

salmon, glassfish, grunter, and ponyfish (Morgan et al., 2010a).


Population Structure


    Faria et al. (2013) found no global population structure for green 

sawfish in their genetic studies. However, geographical variation was 

found in the number of rostral teeth per side, suggesting some 

population structure may occur. Green sawfish from the Indian Ocean 

have a higher number of rostral teeth per side than those from Western 

Pacific specimens (Faria et al., 2013).

    In Australia, genetic analysis found differences in green sawfish 

between the west coast, the east coast, and the Gulf of Carpentaria 

(Phillips et al., 2011). Genetic data suggests these populations are 

structured matrilineally (from the mother to daughter) but there is no 

information on male genet flow at this time. These results may be 

indicative of philopatry where adult females return to or remain in the 

same area they were born (Morgan et al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2011; 

Phillips et al., 2011). Phillips et al. (2011) also found low levels of 

genetic diversity for green sawfish in the Gulf of Carpentaria, 

suggesting the population may have undergone a genetic bottleneck.


Distribution and Abundance


    The green sawfish historically ranged throughout the Indo-West 

Pacific from South Africa northward along the east coast of Africa, 

through the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, southern Asia, Indo-Australian 

archipelago, and east to Asia as far north as Taiwan and southern China 

(Fowler, 1941; Blegvad and L[oslash]ppenthin, 1944; Smith, 1945; Misra, 

1969; Compagno et al., 2002a and 2002b; Last and Stevens, 2009). 

Historic records indicating species presence are available from India, 

southeast Asia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, New South Wales, and 

Australia (Cavanagh et al., 2003; Wueringer et al., 2009; Morgan et 

al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2011). Green sawfish have also been found in 

South Africa, the south China Sea, and the Persian Gulf (Fowler, 1941; 

Compagno et al., 1989; Grant, 1991; Compagno and Last, 1999; Last, 

2002; Compagno, 2002b; Morgan et al., 2010a). To evaluate the current 

distribution and abundance of the green sawfish, we conducted an 

extensive search of peer-reviewed publications and technical reports, 

newspaper, and magazine articles. The results are summarized below by 

geographic area.


Indian Ocean


    Green sawfish are widely distributed throughout the Indian Ocean 

with the first record in 1852 and several green sawfish were described 

near the Indian archipelago in the late 1800's (Van Oijen et al., 

2007). Additional historical records include one female specimen 

captured in the Red Sea near Dollfus in 1929. In Egypt, two green 

sawfish rostra were found in 1938 and an additional rostrum was found 

on Henjam Island, Gulf of Oman (Blegvad and Loppenthin, 1994).

    Unconfirmed reports of green sawfish are available from the Andaman 



[[Page 33312]]


Nicobar Islands, India. In 1963, a male was captured at Port Blair, 

Gulf of Andaman (James, 1973). A female was captured in 1967 in the 

same area (Marichamy, 1969). One green sawfish was captured in the St. 

Lucia estuary, South Africa during a survey between 1975 and 1976 

(Whitfield, 1999).

    Despite historic records, there are few current records of green 

sawfish in the Indian Ocean. We presume green sawfish are extirpated in 

the Indian Ocean based on the lack of current records.


Indo-Pacific Ocean (Excluding Australia)


    The first description of the green sawfish was based on a rostral 

saw (Bleeker, 1851) from Bandjarmasin, Borneo (Van Oijen et al., 2007). 

A juvenile male was captured in Amboine, Indonesia in 1856 (Deynat, 

2005). An isolated saw from the Gulf of Thailand was obtained in 1895 

and estimated to be from a green sawfish 4 ft 8 in (143 cm) TL (Deynat, 

2005). Eight specimens were sent to the Wistar Institute of Anatomy in 

1898 from Baram, British North Borneo (Fowler, 1941).

    Many islands within the Indo-Pacific region contain suitable 

habitat for sawfish but few records are available, possibly due to the 

lack of surveys or data reporting. Before 1995, there were few local 

scientific studies on the elasmobranchs, and only two species of 

freshwater ray had been recorded in Borneo. As a result, a great effort 

to document any unknown species was undertaken by Fowler (2002). Rostra 

and records were documented in the study, including several dried 

rostra of green sawfish from the Kinabatangan River area in the local 

markets of Sabah; no collection specifics were provided. Locals also 

indicated that this species could often be found in the Labuk Bay area 

(Manjaji, 2002a) and in the country's freshwater systems (Manjaji, 

2002b), and reported a decline of sawfish overall.

    Elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific region, few records of green sawfish 

have been reported. This species is currently considered endangered in 

Thailand by Vidthayanon (2002), and Compagno (2002a) reported no 

sawfish species from the south China Sea from 1923 through 1996. 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that sawfishes have not been recorded in 

Indonesia for more than 25 years (White and Last, 2010).




    In Australian waters, records indicate green sawfish abundance is 

higher in the north compared to the south. The earliest record obtained 

was from the Queensland Museum in 1929 indicating that green sawfish 

were found in Moreton Bay, Queensland (Fowler, 1941).

    We found a paucity of records for green sawfish during the middle 

part of the last century. Reports of green sawfish occur again in the 

1980's when two green sawfish were captured from Balgal, Queensland, 

Australia in 1985 (Beveridge and Campbell, 2005). One green sawfish was 

caught in the southern portion of the Gulf of Carpentaria in late 1990 

during a fish fauna survey (Blaber et al., 1994). Alexander (1991) 

captured a female green sawfish from the west coast of Australia that 

was used for a morphological study. Between 1994 and 2010, almost 50 

tissue samples were taken from live green sawfish or dried rostra from 

multiple areas around Australia, primarily the Gulf of Carpentaria and 

northwest and northeast coasts (Phillips et al., 2011). In 1997, one 

green sawfish was found at the mouth of Buffalo Creek near Darwin, 

Northern Territory, Australia (Chisholm and Whittington, 2000) and in a 

survey from 1999 through 2001 by White and Potter (2004) one green 

sawfish was captured in Shark Bay, Queensland. Peverell (2005; 2008) 

noted the green sawfish was the least encountered species in a survey 

from the Gulf of Carpentaria. In 2008, no green sawfish were captured 

from the Roper River system, which drains into the western Gulf of 

Carpentaria, Northern Territory, Australia (Dally and Larson, 2008). 

Some records have been reported for the east coast of Australia; one 

female green sawfish was acoustically tracked for 27 hours in May 2004 

(Peverell and Pillans, 2004; Porteous, 2004).

    In summary, the limited data makes it difficult to determine the 

current range and abundance of green sawfish. However, given the 

uniqueness (size and physical characteristics) of the sawfish, we 

believe the lack of records in the areas where the species was 

historically found likely indicates the species may no longer be 

present. In Australian waters, based on our review, all sawfish species 

have undergone significant declines. The southern extent of the range 

of green sawfishes in Australia has contracted (Harry et al., 2011). 

Green sawfish have been reported as far south as Sydney, Australia, but 

are rarely found as far south as Townsville (Porteous, 2004). Green 

sawfish are currently found primarily along the northern coast of 


    Extensive surveys at fish landing sites throughout Indonesia since 

2001 have failed to record the green sawfish (White pers. comm. to 

IUCN, 2012). There is some evidence from the Persian Gulf and Red Sea 

(e.g., Sudan) of small but extant populations (A. Moore pers. comm. to 

IUCN, 2012). However, lack of data from surveys and commercial 

fisheries throughout much of the remainder of the range suggests that 

the abundance of green sawfish has declined significantly and it is 

currently at only a small fraction of its historic abundance.


Natural History of the Non-listed Population(s) of Smalltooth Sawfish 

(Pristis pectinata)


Taxonomy and Morphology


    The smalltooth sawfish was first described as Pristis pectinatus 

(Latham, 1794). The name was changed to the currently valid P. 

pectinata to match gender of the genus and species.

    The smalltooth sawfish has a thick body with a moderately sized 

rostrum. As with many other sawfishes, tooth count may vary by 

individual or region. While there is no reported difference in rostral 

tooth count between sexes, there have been reports of sexual dimorphism 

in tooth shape, with males having broader teeth than females (Wueringer 

et al., 2009). Rostral teeth are denser near the apex of the saw than 

the base. Most studies report a rostral tooth count of 25 to 29 for 

smalltooth sawfish (Wueringer et al., 2009). The saw may constitute up 

to one-fourth of the total body length (McEachran and De Carvalho, 


    The pectoral fins are broad and long with the origin of the first 

dorsal fin over or anterior to the origin of the pelvic fins (Faria et 

al., 2013). The lower caudal lobe is not well defined and lacks a 

ventral lobe (Wallace, 1967; Gloerfelt-Tarp and Kailola, 1984; Last and 

Stevens, 1994; Compagno and Last, 1999; Bonfil and Abdallah, 2004; 

Wueringer et al., 2009). This species has between 228 and 232 vertebrae 

(Wallace, 1967).

    The smalltooth sawfish has buccopharyngeal denticles and regularly 

overlapping monocuspidate (single-pointed) dermal denticles on their 

skin. As a result, there are no keels or furrows formed on the skin 

(Last and Stevens, 1994; Deynat, 2005). The body is an olive grey color 

dorsally, with a white ventral surface (Compagno et al., 1989; Last and 

Stevens, 1994; Compagno and Last, 1999). This species may be confused 

with narrow or green sawfish (Compagno, 2002b).


Habitat Use and Migration


    All research on habitat use and migration has been conducted on the 

U.S. DPS of smalltooth sawfish. A summary of recent information is found in NMFS (2010b), which indicates 

sawfish are generally found in shallow waters with varying salinity 

level that are associated with red mangroves. Juvenile sawfish also 

appear to have small home ranges and limited movements. Since NMFS 

(2010b), Simpfendorfer et al. (2011) reported electivity analysis on 

sawfish movements and demonstrated an affinity for salinities between 

18 and at least 24 ppt, suggesting movements are likely made, in part, 

to remain within this salinity range. Therefore, freshwater flow may 

affect the location of individuals within an estuary. Poulakis et al. 

(2011) found juvenile smalltooth sawfish had an affinity for water less 

than 3 ft (1.0 m) deep, water temperatures greater than 30 degrees 

Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), dissolved oxygen greater than 6 mg per 

liter, and salinity between 18 and 30 ppt. Greater catch rates for 

smalltooth sawfish less than 1 year old were associated with shoreline 

habitats with overhanging vegetation such as mangroves. Poulakis et al. 

(2012) further determined daily activity space of smalltooth sawfish is 

less than 1 mi (0.7 km) of river distance. Hollensead (2012) reported 

smalltooth sawfish activity areas ranged in size from 837 square yards 

to 240,000 square yards to approximately 3 million square yards (0.0007 

to 2.59 km\2\) with average range of movements of 7 ft to 20 ft (2.4 to 

6.1 m) per minute. Hollensead (2012) also found no difference in 

activity area or range of movement between ebb and flood, or high and 

low tide. Activity area decreased and range of movement increased at 

night, indicating possible nocturnal foraging. Using a combination of 

data from pop-off archival transmitting tags across multiple 

institutional programs, movements and habitat use of adult smalltooth 

sawfish were determined in southern Florida and the Bahamas (Carlson et 

al., in review). All smalltooth sawfish generally remained in coastal 

waters at shallow depths (96 percent of their time at depths less than 

32 ft; 10 m) and warm water temperatures (22-28 degrees Celsius (71.6-

82.4 degrees Fahrenheit) within the region where they were initially 

tagged, travelling an average of 49 mi (80.2 km) from deployment to 

pop-off location on an average of 95 days. No smalltooth sawfish tagged 

within U.S. or Bahamian waters have been tracked to countries outside 

where they were tagged.


Age and Growth


    There is no age and growth data for smalltooth sawfish outside of 

the U.S. DPS. A summary of age and growth data on the U.S. DPS of 

smalltooth sawfish is found in NMFS (2010b) indicates rapid juvenile 

growth for smalltooth sawfish for the first 2 years after birth. 

Recently, Scharer et al. (2012) counted bands on sectioned vertebrae 

from naturally deceased smalltooth sawfish and estimated von 

Bertalanffy growth parameters. Theoretical maximum size was estimated 

at 14.7 ft (4.48 m), relative growth was 0.219 per year, with 

theoretical maximum size at 15.8 years.




    Outside U.S. waters, smalltooth sawfish have been recorded breeding 

in Richard's Bay and St. Lucia, South Africa (Wallace, 1967; Compagno 

et al., 1989; Compagno and Last, 1999). Pupping grounds are usually 

inshore, in marine or freshwater, and pupping occurs year around in the 

tropics, but in only spring and summer at higher latitudes (Compagno 

and Last, 1999). Records of captive breeding have been reported from 

the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort Aquarium in Nassau, Bahamas; 

copulatory behavior was observed in 2003 and 6 months later the female 

aborted the pups for unknown reasons (McDavitt, 2006). In October 2012, 

a female sawfish gave birth to five live pups (J. Choromanski, pers. 


    Several studies have examined demography of smalltooth sawfish in 

U.S. waters. Moreno Iturria (2012) calculated demographic parameters 

for smalltooth sawfish in U.S. waters and estimated intrinsic rates of 

increase at 7 percent annually with a population doubling time of 9.7 

years. However, preliminary results of a different model by Carlson et 

al. (2012) indicates population increase rates may be greater, up to 

17.6 percent annually, for the U.S. population of smalltooth sawfish. 

It is not clear which of these models is more appropriate for the non-

U.S. populations of smalltooth sawfish.


Diet and Feeding


    Smalltooth sawfish often use their rostrum saw in a side-sweeping 

motion to stun its prey, which may include small fishes, or dig up 

invertebrates from the bottom (Breder Jr., 1952; Compagno et al., 1989; 

Rainboth, 1996; McEachran and De Carvalho, 2002; Raje and Joshi, 2003; 

Last and Stevens, 2009; Wueringer et al., 2009).


Population Structure


    A qualitative examination of genetic (NADH-2) sequences revealed no 

geographical structuring of smalltooth sawfish haplotypes (Faria et 

al., 2013). However, variation in the number of rostral teeth number 

per side was found in specimens from the western and eastern Atlantic 

Ocean (Faria et al., 2013).


Distribution and Abundance


    Outside U.S. waters, smalltooth sawfish were thought to be 

historically found in South Africa, Madagascar, the Red Sea, Arabia, 

India, the Philippines, along the coast of west Africa, portions of 

South America including Brazil, Ecuador, the Caribbean Sea, the Mexican 

Gulf of Mexico, as well as Bermuda (Bigelow and Scheroder, 1953; 

Wallace, 1967; Van der Elst, 1981; Compagno et al., 1989; Last and 

Stevens, 1994; IUCN, 1996; Compagno and Last, 1999; McEachran and De 

Carvalho, 2002; Monte-Luna et al., 2009; Wueringer et al., 2009). 

However, reports of smalltooth sawfish from other than the Atlantic 

Ocean are likely misidentifications of other sawfish (Faria et al., 

2013). In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, smalltooth sawfish were 

historically found along the west coast of Africa from Angola to 

Mauritania (Faria et al., 2013). Although smalltooth sawfish were 

included in historic faunal lists of species found in the Mediterranean 

Sea (Serena, 2005), it is still unclear if smalltooth sawfish occurred 

as part of the Mediterranean ichthyofauna or were only seasonal 


    To evaluate the current and historic distribution and abundance of 

the smalltooth sawfish outside the U.S. DPS, we conducted an extensive 

search of peer-reviewed publications and technical reports, newspaper, 

and magazine articles. The result of that search is summarized below by 

major geographic region.


Eastern Atlantic Ocean


    Smalltooth sawfish were once common in waters off west Africa, but 

are now rarely reported or documented in the area. The earliest record 

of smalltooth sawfish in Africa was in 1907 from Cameroon: seven 

records for five males and two females. Female specimens were recorded 

in the Republic of the Congo in 1911 and 1948. Other reports from the 

Republic of Congo include a male and two females, but dates were not 

recorded. A female specimen from Mauritania was recorded but no date is 

given (Faria et al., 2013). A rostra from the Republic of the Congo, 

Pointe Noire, Molez was found in 1958 as well as a record of a large 

female from Somalia in 1909 (Deynat, 2005; Faria et al., 2013). There 

are records of smalltooth sawfish from Senegal as early as 1956 and 

another rostral saw was recorded in 1959. Faria et al. (2013) also 

reports on four other rostra from Senegal, but no specific information is available.

    In the 1970s, records of smalltooth sawfish became limited to more 

northern areas of west Africa. One rostral saw from Senegal was 

recorded in 1975 (Alexander, 1991). Similarly, one rostral saw was 

reported from Gambia in 1977, but information about exact location or 

sex of the animal was absent (Faria et al., 2013). Faria et al. (2013) 

report a record of smalltooth sawfish in Guinea Bissau in 1983 and a 

record of a saw in 1987. For a morphological study, Deynat (2005) 

obtained a juvenile female from Port-Etienne, Mauritania, in 1986, and 

another from Cacheu, Guinea-Bissau in 1983. Two rostra were reported 

from the Republic of Guinea: one in 980 and one in 1988 (Faria et al., 


    In the last 10 years, there has been only one confirmed record of a 

smalltooth sawfish outside of U.S. waters in Sierra Leone, west Africa, 

in 2003 (M. Diop, pers. comm.). Two other countries have recently 

reported sawfish (Guinea Bissau, Africa in 2011, and Mauritania in 

2010) but these reports did not specify them as smalltooth sawfish.


Western Atlantic Ocean (Outside U.S. Waters)


    Overall, records of smalltooth sawfish in the western Atlantic 

Ocean are scarce and show a non-continuous range, potentially due to 

misidentification with largetooth sawfish. Faria et al. (2013) 

summarized most records of smalltooth sawfish in these areas as 

described below. The earliest records are a female smalltooth sawfish 

from Haiti in 1831 and a female sawfish from Trinidad and Tobago in 

1876. Another early record of two smalltooth sawfish saws is from 

Guyana in 1886 and an additional saw was later recorded in 1900. In 

Brazil, there is a 1910 report of a female smalltooth sawfish.

    In the middle part of the 20th century there are reports of two 

female smalltooth sawfish from Mexico in 1926. Rostral saws were found 

in Suriname in 1943, 1944 and 1963, but no additional location or 

biotic information is known. Similarly, one rostrum was reported from 

Costa Rica in 1960, one rostral saw from Trinidad and Tobago in 1944, 

and in 1958 and 1960, several whole individuals and one rostrum were 

recorded from Guyana. There are also several other undated specimens 

recorded from Guyana from this period.

    There are other records of smalltooth sawfish's presence in the 

western Atlantic Ocean but specific information is lacking. For 

example, Faria et al., (2013) reports that four rostral saws came from 

Mexico and two from Belize. One female was reported from Venezuela and 

two saws from Trinidad and Tobago.

    In conclusion, while records are sparse, it is likely the 

distribution of smalltooth sawfish in the Atlantic Ocean is patchy and 

has been reduced in a pattern similar to largetooth sawfish. Data 

suggests only a few viable populations might exist outside the U.S. Due 

to better quality of habitat and low urbanization, some areas in the 

Caribbean Sea may have a greater number of smalltooth sawfish than 

other areas. For example, smalltooth sawfish have been repeatedly 

reported along the western coast of Andros Island, Bahamas (R.D. Grubbs 

pers. comm., 2010) and The Nature Conservancy noted two smalltooth 

sawfish at the northern and southern end of the island in 2006. Fishing 

guides commonly encounter smalltooth sawfish around Andros Island while 

fishing for bonefish and tarpon (R.D. Grubbs pers. comm., 2010), and 

researchers tagged two in 2010 (Carlson et al., in review). In Bimini, 

Bahamas, generally one smalltooth sawfish has been caught every two 

years as part of shark surveys conducted by the Bimini Biological 

Station (D. Chapman pers. comm.). In west Africa, Guinea Bissau 

represents the last areas where sawfish can be found (M. Diop pers. 

comm. to IUCN, 2012). Anecdotal reports indicate smalltooth sawfish may 

also be found in localized areas off Honduras, Belize, and Cuba (R. 

Graham pers. comm. to IUCN, 2012).


Species Determinations


    We first consider whether or not the narrow sawfish (A. cuspidata), 

dwarf sawfish (P. clavata), largetooth sawfish (P. pristis), green 

sawfish (P. zijsron), and all non-listed population(s) of smalltooth 

sawfish (P. pectinata) meet the definition of ``species'' pursuant to 

section 3 of the ESA. Then we consider if any populations meet the DPS 



Consideration as a ``Species'' Under the Endangered Species Act


    Based on the best available scientific and commercial information 

described above in the natural history sections for each species, we 

have determined that the narrow sawfish (A. cuspidata), dwarf sawfish 

(P. clavata), largetooth sawfish (P. pristis), and green sawfish (P. 

zijsron) are taxonomically-distinct species and therefore eligible for 

listing under the ESA.


Distinct Population Segments


    In order to determine if any populations segments of the above 

species, and especially the petitioned and currently non-listed 

population segment of smalltooth sawfish (P. pectinata), constitutes a 

``species'' eligible for listing under the ESA, we used the natural 

history information and our joint NMFS- USFWS Policy regarding the 

recognition of distinct population segments (DPS) under the ESA (61 FR 

4722; February 7, 1996). We examined the three criteria that must be 

met for a DPS to be listed under the ESA: (1) The discreteness of the 

population segment in relation to the remainder of the species to which 

it belongs; (2) the significance of the population segment to the 

remainder of the species to which it belongs; and (3) the population 

segment's conservation status in relation to the Act's standards for 

listing (i.e., is the population segment, when treated as if it were a 

species, endangered or threatened?).

    A population may be considered discrete, if it satisfies one on the 

following conditions: (1) It is markedly separated from other 

populations of the same taxon as a consequence of physical, 

physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors; or (2) it is 

delimited by international governmental boundaries within which 

differences of control of exploitation, management of habitat, 

conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms exist that are 

significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D) of the ESA.

    We looked for information indicating that population segments of 

narrow sawfish (A. cuspidata); dwarf sawfish (P. clavata); largetooth 

sawfish (P. pristis); green sawfish (P. zijsron) were markedly separate 

from other populations. There are few data available to examine 

physical, physiological, ecological, or behavioral distinctiveness of 

these sawfish. The morphology, ecology, and physiology of a sawfish 

likely limits extensive transoceanic movements; however local 

migrations are likely and limited movement data exists among larger 

individuals (Carlson et al,. in review). Phillips et al. (2011) noted 

the presence of matrilineal structuring of narrow sawfish (A. 

cuspidata), dwarf sawfish (P. clavata), and green sawfish (P. zijsron), 

suggesting the presence of either barriers to dispersal or some aspect 

of adult behavior limiting the effective dispersal of at least the 

female component of populations. Information on the population 

structure of the largetooth sawfish (P. pristis) indicates restricted 

gene flow between the Atlantic and Indo-West Pacific; Atlantic and Eastern Pacific; and Indo-

West Pacific and Eastern Pacific (Faria et al., 2013). Fine-scale 

structuring of subpopulations was only partially collaborated by the 

regional variation in the number of rostral teeth (Faria et al., 2013).

    The genetic diversity for largetooth sawfish across Australia seems 

to be low to moderate. More genetic diversity was found in the Gulf of 

Carpentaria than in specific Australian Rivers, indicative of potential 

philopatry (Lack et al., 2009). However, data are limited and more 

samples are required to fully realize any population structure of 

largetooth sawfish (Lack et al., 2009; Phillips et al., 2009; Morgan et 

al., 2010a; Morgan et al., 2010b).

    Genetic studies of narrow sawfish have also been completed to 

evaluate the population structure of the species. Field et al. (2009) 

used genetic samples of narrow sawfish and found distinctions in the 

isotopic content of their rostral teeth, indicating differences within 

samples from the eastern and western portions of the Gulf of 

Carpentaria. The techniques used by Field et al. (2009) are still in 

its infancy and it is not clear whether or not these results are 

typically concordant with the parallel genetic studies of population 

structure. Isotopic signatures provide information on the location 

where the animal spends most of its time, and does not necessarily 

provide information on the reproductive connectivity between various 


    Although some studies report geographic variation in rostral tooth 

counts and some matrilineal structuring, we conclude that the best 

available information indicates individuals of narrow sawfish (A. 

cuspidata), dwarf sawfish (P. clavata), green sawfish (P. zijsron), and 

largetooth sawfish (P. pristis), are not markedly separated from the 

remainder of the species and therefore are not discrete as defined by 

the DPS policy. Largetooth sawfish under their original taxonomic 

classification (i.e., 3 separate species) might have geographically 

separate populations (e.g., western North Atlantic, eastern Pacific, 

and Indo-Pacific Ocean), but we cannot conclude any population meets 

the DPS criteria of discreteness given the lack of supporting 

biological information. Therefore, we will examine the global status of 

narrow sawfish, dwarf sawfish, largetooth sawfish, and green sawfish in 

our evaluation for endangered or threatened status.

    We previously determined that the U.S. DPS of smalltooth sawfish 

was discrete (68 FR 15674; April 1, 2003), as no information was 

available to indicate smalltooth sawfish in U.S. waters interact with 

those in international waters or other countries. The joint DPS policy 

states that the agency may consider a population discrete because it 

``is delimited by international governmental boundaries within which 

differences in control of exploitation, management of habitat, 

conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms exist that are 

significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D) of the Act.'' In 2003, we 

concluded that the U.S. population of smalltooth sawfish is effectively 

isolated and listed it as endangered along international governmental 

boundaries (68 FR 15674; April 1, 2003).

    We now evaluate the non-U.S. populations of smalltooth sawfish to 

determine if they meet the discreteness criteria of the joint DPS 

policy. First, we determine the non-U.S. populations of smalltooth 

sawfish are discrete from the U.S. population because they are 

delimited by international governmental boundaries within which 

differences of control of exploitation, management of habitat, 

conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms exist that are 

significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D) of the ESA. Because we have 

designated critical habitat for the U.S. DPS population of smalltooth 

sawfish, there is a regulatory mechanism for protecting juvenile 

smalltooth sawfish and their habitats in the U.S. that does not exist 

for the non-U.S. populations of smalltooth sawfish. Movement data from 

smalltooth sawfish tagged in U .S. and Bahamian waters also indicate no 

movement to countries outside where they were tagged. This information 

supports the DPS discreteness criterion of being markedly separate as a 

consequence of ecological factors. However, we have no information 

indicating genetic differences exist between the smalltooth sawfishes 

throughout their range outside U.S. waters or other biological 

information that would provide a strong basis for further separating 

the non-U.S. smalltooth sawfish population into smaller units. We, 

therefore, conclude that the non-U.S. populations of smalltooth sawfish 

meet the discreteness criterion of the joint DPS policy and we consider 

these populations as a single potential DPS.

    After meeting the discreteness criterion in the DPS policy, we then 

considered whether the non-U.S. population of smalltooth sawfish meets 

the significance criterion. The joint DPS policy gives examples of 

potential considerations indicating the population's significance to 

the larger taxon. Among these considerations is evidence that the 

discrete population segment would result in a significant gap in the 

range of the taxon. Smalltooth sawfish are limited in their 

distribution outside of the U.S. to west Africa, the Caribbean, Mexico, 

and Central and South America. Loss of this group of smalltooth sawfish 

would result in a significant gap in the range of this species and 

restrict distribution to U.S. waters. Because the loss of smalltooth 

sawfish in areas outside the U.S. would result in a significant gap in 

the range of the species, we conclude the non-U.S. population of 

smalltooth sawfish is significant as defined by the DPS policy. We also 

note that no difference in status of the species is found among all 


    Based on the above analysis of discreteness and significance, we 

conclude that the non-U.S. population of smalltooth sawfish (P. 

pectinata) meets the definition of a DPS and is eligible for listing 

under the ESA, and hereafter refer to it as the non-U.S. DPS of 

smalltooth sawfish.


Extinction Risk


    We next consider the risk of extinction for narrow sawfish, dwarf 

sawfish, green sawfish, largetooth sawfish, and the non-U.S. DPS of 

smalltooth sawfish to determine whether the species are threatened or 

endangered per the ESA definition. We used the methods developed by 

Wainwright and Kope (1999) to organize and summarize our findings. This 

approach has been used in the review of many other species (Pacific 

salmonid, Pacific hake, walleye pollock, Pacific cod, Puget Sound 

rockfishes, Pacific herring, and black abalone) to summarize the status 

of the species according to demographic risk criteria. The methods 

developed by Wainwright and Kope (1999) further consider the risk to 

small populations based on potential genetic effects or random 

demographic effects, and considered habitat capacity to answer 

questions about the carrying capacity and whether or not the carrying 

capacity can ensure the populations viability. Using these concepts, we 

estimated the extinction risk for each of the five species at both 

current and anticipated risks expected in the foreseeable future. We 

also performed a threats assessment by identifying the severity of 

threats that exist now and in the foreseeable future. We defined the 

``foreseeable future'' as the timeframe over which threats, or the 

species response to those threats, can be reliably predicted to impact 

the biological status of the species. We determined that the 

foreseeable future is approximately three generation times, calculated 

for each of the species based on the demographic calculations of Moreno Iturria (2012): narrow 

sawfish, 14 years; dwarf sawfish, 49 years; largetooth sawfish, 48 

years; green sawfish, 38 years; and the non-U.S. DPS of smalltooth 

sawfish, 30 years. After considering the life history of the each 

species, availability of data, and type of threats, we concluded that 3 

generations was an appropriate measure to evaluate threats in the 

foreseeable future. As a late-maturing species, with slow growth rate 

and low productivity, it would take more than one generation for any 

conservation management action to be realized and reflected in 

population abundance indices. The timeframe of 3 generations is a 

widely used scientific indicator of biological status, and has been 

applied to decision making models by many other conservation management 

organizations, including the American Fisheries Society, the CITES, and 

the IUCN.

    Wainwright and Kope (1999) used trends in abundance, productivity, 

and genetic variability to examine short and long-term trends in 

abundance as the primary indicators of risk. Wainwright and Kope (1999) 

also considered genetic integrity (introduced genotypes, interactions 

with hatchery fish, or anthropogenic selection) and connectivity to 

assess genetic diversity and take into account the potential for 

genetic exchange. Populations that are more fragmented have less 

genetic exchange and therefore less connectivity, which increases the 

risk of extinction. Loss of fitness and loss of diversity can occur 

from random genetic effects and increase the risk of extinction for a 

species. The last factor that Wainwright and Kope (1999) evaluated is 

the risks associated with recent events. Changes in harvest rates or 

natural events (floods, volcanic eruptions) can pose a risk for species 

but may not have been adequately considered by looking at the other 

effects above when there is a time-lag in seeing the effect of recent 

events. Given the global distribution of these sawfishes, coupled with 

limited data on catch rates, we did not include these additional 

factors in our extinction risk analysis.

    We consider four categories to assess extinction risk of each 

sawfish species: (1) Abundance, (2) growth rate/productivity, (3) 

genetic integrity which includes the connectivity and genetic diversity 

of the species, and (4) spatial structure/connectivity. We determined 

extinction risk for each category for both now and in the foreseeable 

future using a five level qualitative scale to describe our assessment 

of the risk of extinction. At the lowest level, a factor, either alone 

or in combination with other factors, is considered ``unlikely'' to 

significantly contribute to risk of extinction for a species. The next 

lowest level is considered to be a ``low'' risk to contribute to the 

extinction risk, but could contribute in combination with other 

factors. The next level is considered a ``moderate'' risk of extinction 

for the species, but in combination with other factors contributes 

significantly to the risk of extinction. A ranking of ``likely'' means 

that factor by itself is likely to contribute significantly to the risk 

of extinction. Finally, the most threatening factors are considered 

``highly likely'' to contributes significantly to the risk of 


    We ranked abundance as likely or highly likely to contribute 

significantly to the current and foreseeable risk of extinction for all 

sawfishes. It appears the northern coast of Australia supports the 

largest remaining groups of dwarf, largetooth, green, and narrow 

sawfish in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, with some isolated groups in 

the western and central Indo-Pacific region, where the latter three 

species occur. Smalltooth sawfish are still being reported outside of 

U.S. waters in the Caribbean Sea, but records are few and mostly 

insular (e.g., Andros Island) where habitat is available and gillnet 

fisheries are not a threat to the species (see below). There are only 

four records of largetooth sawfish in the eastern Atlantic Ocean over 

the last decade. Similarly, recent largetooth sawfish records in the 

western Atlantic are from only the Amazon River basin and the Rio 

Colorado-Rio San Juan area in Nicaragua. We considered the current 

levels of abundance and realize many areas where sawfish still occur 

are subject to commercial and artisanal fisheries and potential habitat 

loss, and therefore rank the risk of extinction due to low abundance as 

high into the foreseeable future.

    Wainright and Kope (1999) stated short- and long-term trends in 

abundance are a primary indicator of extinction risk and may be 

calculated from a variety of quantitative data such as research 

surveys, commercial logbook or observer data, and landings information 

when accompanied by effort. Similar to information relative to 

abundance, we found that the natural history information indicates an 

absence of long-term monitoring data for all five sawfishes. We looked 

for inferences about extinctions risk of species based on the trends in 

past observations using the presence of a particular species at 

specified places and times (e.g., Dulvy et al., 2003; Rivadeneira et 

al., 2009). The available museum records, negative scientific survey 

results, and anecdotal reports indicate the abundance trend for all 

five sawfishes is declining and population sizes are small. Information 

available on the species' distribution also indicates the populations 

are significantly reduced.

    We next considered that sawfish have historically been classified 

as having both low reproductive productivity and low recovery 

potential. We looked to the demography of smalltooth and largetooth 

sawfish from the northwest Atlantic Ocean that was originally 

investigated using an age-structured life table (Simpfendorfer, 2000). 

Using known estimates of growth, mortality, and reproduction at the 

time, Simpfendorfer (2000) determined that intrinsic rates of 

population increase ranged from 8-13 percent per year, and population 

doubling times were approximately 5 to 8.5 years for both species. 

These estimates included assumptions that there was no fishing 

mortality, no habitat limitations, no population fragmentation, or 

other effects of small population sizes. Simpfendorfer (2006) further 

modeled the demography of smalltooth sawfish using a method for 

estimating the rebound potential of a population by assuming that 

maximum sustainable yield was achieved when the total mortality was 

twice that of natural mortality (Au and Smith, 1997). This demographic 

model produced intrinsic rates of population increase that were from 2-

7 percent per year for both smalltooth and largetooth sawfish. These 

values are similar to those calculated by Smith et al. (2008) using the 

same methodology corresponding to elasmobranch species with the lowest 

productivity (Smith et al., 2008). Musick et al. (2000) noted that 

species with intrinsic rates of increase of less than 10 percent were 

particularly vulnerable to rapid population declines and a higher risk 

of extinction.

    Some recent studies on the life history of sawfish, however, 

indicate they are potentially more productive than originally proposed. 

Growth rates (von Bertalannfy ``K'') for some species, like narrow 

sawfish, approach 0.34 per year (Peverell, 2008). Data from tag-

recapture studies and analysis of vertebral growth bands from 

smalltooth sawfish indicates that the first few years after birth 

represent the time when growth is most rapid (e.g., Simpfendorfer et 

al., 2008; Scharer et al., 2012). Using updated life history 

information, Moreno Iturria (2012) calculated intrinsic rates of 

increase for these five species of sawfish and determined values 

ranging from a low of 0.03 per year for largetooth 

sawfish to a high of 0.27 per year for narrow sawfish. Considering this 

information, and the inferred declining trend in abundance, we conclude 

productivity was a moderate risk for the narrow sawfish but a high risk 

for the other four species. We also determined that productivity would 

remain a moderate risk for the narrow sawfish and a high risk for the 

other four species, in the foreseeable future.

    We also combined consideration of the two categories including 

genetic diversity, spatial structure, and connectivity of each species 

as it relates to the genetic integrity. Population structure and levels 

of genetic diversity have recently been assessed for the green sawfish, 

dwarf sawfish, and largetooth sawfish across northern Australia using a 

portion of the mtDNA control region. Phillips et al. (2011) found 

statistically significant genetic structure within species and moderate 

genetic diversity among these species. These results suggest that 

sawfish may be more vulnerable to local extirpation along certain parts 

of their range, especially in areas where the population has been 

fragmented and movement between these areas is limited. However, these 

results do not necessarily suggest a higher risk of extinction 

throughout the entire range of the species. Chapman et al. (2011) 

investigated the genetic diversity of the U.S. DPS of smalltooth 

sawfish that has declined to between one to five percent of its 

abundance in the 1900's, while its core distribution has contracted to 

less than 10 percent of its former range (NMFS, 2009). Unexpectedly, 

the U.S. DPS of smalltooth sawfish exhibited no genetic bottleneck and 

has genetic diversity that is similar to other, less depleted 

elasmobranch populations (Chapman et al., 2011). Given that all species 

of sawfish have suffered similar abundance declines, we believe this 

conclusion should serve as a surrogate for the other sawfish species. 

Because the U.S. DPS of smalltooth sawfish has not undergone a genetic 

bottleneck, we ranked genetic integrity as a moderate risk for all 

sawfish species as it is likely in combination with other factors to 

contribute significantly to the risk of extinction. However, we 

determined that the risk of extinction due to the lack of connectivity 

was high for all five species, primarily because all populations have 

undergone severe fragmentation. While genetic results provide optimism 

for the remaining populations of sawfish, this does not preclude the 

promotion of management actions to enhance connectivity among 

populations that have been historically fragmented. We are also 

somewhat optimistic that sawfish populations may begin to rebuild in 

some areas and the risk of connectivity was determined to decrease for 

smalltooth and the narrow sawfish in the foreseeable future, although 

by only a small amount.

    After reviewing the best available scientific data and the 

extinction risk evaluation on the 5 species of sawfishes, we conclude 

the risk of extinction for all five species of sawfish is high now and 

in the foreseeable future.


Summary of Factors Affecting the Five Species of Sawfishes


    Next we consider whether any of the five factors specified in 

section 4(a)(1) of the ESA are contributing to the extinction risk of 

these five sawfishes.


The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of 

its Habitat or Range


    We identified habitat destruction, modification, or curtailment of 

habitat or range as a potential threat to all five species of sawfishes 

and determined this factor is currently, and in the foreseeable future, 

contributing significantly to the risk of extinction of these species.


Coastal and Riverine Habitats


    Loss of habitat is one of the factors determined to be associated 

with the decline of smalltooth sawfish in the U.S. (NMFS, 2009). As 

juveniles, sawfishes rely on shallow nearshore environments, primarily 

mangrove-fringed estuaries as nurseries (e.g., Wiley and Simpfendorfer, 

2010; Norton et al., 2012). Coastal development and urbanization have 

caused these habitats to be reduced or removed from many areas 

throughout the species' historic and current range. Habitat loss was 

identified as one of the most serious threats to the persistence of all 

species of sawfish, posing high risks for extinction. It is still 

unclear how anthropogenic impacts to habitats affect the recruitment of 

juvenile sawfish, and therefore adequate protection of remaining 

natural areas is essential. Given the threat from coastal urbanization 

coupled with the predicted reduction of mangroves globally (Alongi, 

2008), we believe the risk of habitat loss would significantly 

contribute to both the decline of sawfish and their reduced viability.

    We expect habitat modification throughout the range of these 

sawfishes to continue with human population increases. As humans 

continue to develop rural areas, habitat for other species, like 

sawfish, becomes compromised (Compagno, 2002b). Habitat modification 

affects all five species of sawfish, especially those inshore, coastal 

habitats near estuaries and marshes (Compagno and Last, 1999; Cavanagh 

et al., 2003; Martin, 2005; Chin et al., 2010; NMFS, 2010). Mining and 

mangrove deforestation severely alter the coast habitats of estuaries 

and wetlands that support sawfish (Vidthayanon, 2002; Polhemus et al., 

2004; Martin, 2005). In addition, riverine systems throughout most of 

these species' historical range have been altered or dammed. For 

example, the potential expansion of the McArthur River Mine would 

permanently realign channels that would in turn affect the number of 

pools formed during the wet and dry seasons, many of which are used as 

refuge areas for dwarf, green, or largetooth sawfish (Polhemus et al., 

2004; Gorham, 2006).

    While the status of habitats across the global range of these 

sawfishes is not well known, we expect the continued development and 

human population growth to have negative effects on habitat, especially 

to nearshore nursery habitats. For example, Ruiz-Luna et al. (2008) 

acknowledge that deforestation of mangrove forests in Mexico has 

occurred from logging practices, construction of harbors, tourism, and 

aquaculture activities. Valiela et al. (2001) reported on mangrove 

declines worldwide. They showed that the area of mangrove habitat in 

Brazil decreased by almost half (9652 to 5173 square miles) from 1983-

1997, with similar trends in Guinnea-Bissau (1837 to 959 square miles) 

from 1953-1995. The areas with the most rapid mangrove declines in the 

Americas included Venezuela, Mexico, Panama, the U.S., and Brazil. 

Along the western coast of Africa, the largest declines have occurred 

in Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Guinnea-Bissau. World-wide 

mangrove habitat loss was estimated at 35 percent from 1980-2000 

(Valiela et al., 2001). These areas where mangroves are known to have 

decreased are within both the historic and current ranges of these five 



Hydroelectric and Flood Control Dams


    Hydroelectric and flood control dams pose a major threat to 

freshwater inflow into the euryhaline habitats of sawfishes. 

Alterations of flow, physical barriers, and increased water temperature 

affect water quality and quantity in the rivers, as well as adjacent 

estuaries that are important nursery areas for sawfish. Regulating 

water flow affects the environmental cues of monsoonal rains and 

increased freshwater flow for pupping (Peverell, 2008; Morgan et al., 

2011). Increases in siltation due to regulated water flow may also affect benthic habitat 

or prey abundance for these sawfishes (Compagno, 2002; Polhemus et al., 

2004; Martin, 2005; Thorburn et al., 2007; Chin et al., 2010; Morgan et 

al., 2010a).

    New dams being proposed to provide additional irrigation to 

farmland upstream may affect sawfish habitat. For example, the Gilbert 

River, in Queensland, Australia drains into the Gulf of Carpentaria 

which is the nursery area for green, dwarf, and largetooth sawfish. 

Further modification of the McArthur and Gilbert Rivers, along with 

increased commercial fishing in coastal waters, will negatively affect 

sawfishes by reducing available habitat while increasing bycatch 

mortality (Gorham, 2006).


Water Quality


    Largetooth sawfish in particular, and likely the other sawfishes, 

have experienced a loss of habitat throughout their range due to the 

decline in water quality. Agriculture and logging practices increase 

runoff, change salinity, and reduce the flow of water into freshwater 

rivers and streams that affects the habitat of the largetooth sawfish 

(Polhemus et al., 2004; IUCN Red List, 2006); mining seems to be the 

most detrimental activity to water quality. Pollution from industrial 

waste, urban and rural sewage, fertilizers and pesticides, and tourist 

development all end up in these freshwater systems and eventually the 

oceans. Pollution from these operations, as well as cyanide spills 

(Papua-New Guinea, 1996), has caused a reduction in the number of 

sawfish in these freshwater systems (Vidthayanon, 2002; Polhemus et 

al., 2004).

    In summary, habitat alterations that potentially affect sawfishes 

include commercial and residential development, construction of water 

control structures, and modification to freshwater inflows. All 

sawfishes are vulnerable to a host of habitat impacts because they use 

rivers, estuaries, bays, and the ocean at various times of their life 

cycle. Based on our review of current literature, scientific survey and 

anecdotal information on the historic and current distribution, we find 

that destruction, modification, and curtailment of habitat or ranges is 

a factor affecting the status of each species, and we conclude that 

this factor is contributing, on its own or in combination with other 

factors, to the extinction risk of all five species of sawfishes.


Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 

Educational Purposes


    We identified overutilization for commercial, recreational, 

scientific, or educational purposes as a potential threat to all five 

species of sawfishes and determined that it is currently and in the 

foreseeable future contributing significantly to their risk of 



Commercial Fisheries


    Commercial fisheries pose the biggest threat to these sawfishes, as 

these species are bycatch from many fisheries. Their unusual morphology 

and prominent saw makes sawfishes particularly vulnerable to most types 

of fishing gear, most notably any type of net (Anak, 2002; Hart, 2002; 

Last, 2002; Pogonoski et al., 2002; Cavanagh et al., 2003; Porteous, 

2004; Gorham, 2006; IUCN Red List, 2006; Chidlow, 2007; Field, 2009; 

Chin et al., 2010; NMFS, 2010, Morgan et al., 2011). Trawling gear is 

of particular concern as it is the most common gear used within the 

range and habitat of sawfishes (Compagno and Last, 1999; Taniuchi, 

2002; Walden and Nou, 2008). In Thailand, for example, all sawfish fins 

obtained and sold to markets are a result of bycatch by otter-board 

trawling and gillnet fisheries as there are no directed sawfish 

fisheries in the country (Pauly, 1988; Vidthayanon, 2002). The Lake 

Nicaragua commercial fishery for largetooth sawfish that collapsed 

prior to the 1980's was comprised mostly of gillnet boats (Thorson 

1982a), and the commercial small coastal shark fishery in Brazil mainly 

utilizes gillnets and some handlines (Charvet-Almeida, 2002). Subadult 

and adult smalltooth sawfish have been reported as bycatch in the U.S. 

Gulf of Mexico and south Atlantic shrimp trawl fishery (NMFS SEFSC, 

2011). However, if proper techniques are used, all sawfish species, 

particularly adults, are fairly resilient and can be released alive 

from most fishing gear (Lack et al., 2009).

    While the occasional live release from commercial fishing gear does 

occur, sawfishes are often retained. The meat is generally consumed 

locally, but the fins and rostra are of high value and sold in markets 

where these products are unregulated (CITES, 2007). In Brazil a 

captured sawfish is most likely retained because of the value of their 

products, as the rostra, teeth, and fins are valued at upwards of 

$1,000 U.S. in foreign markets (NMFS, 2010a). The proportion of 

largetooth sawfish in these markets is unknown, although as many as 180 

largetooth sawfish saws were annually sold at a single market in 

northern Brazil in the early 2000's (McDavitt and Charvet-Almeida, 

2004). The Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce 

(TRAFFIC) organization found that meat, liver oil, fins, and skin are 

among the most preferred sawfish products in Asian markets (Anak, 2002; 

Vidthayanon, 2002). In the Gulf of Thailand, over 5,291 US tons (4,800 

tonnes) of rays were caught annually from 1976-1989; at the same time 

over 1,102 US tons (1,000 tonnes) of rays were caught in the Andaman 

Sea (Vidthayanon, 2002). It is likely that most of these products were 

sold in Asian markets because of the high demand for sawfish products. 

Reports of sawfish products in various markets throughout Asia are 

often inconsistent and inaccurate despite international rules on take 

and possession of sawfish products (Fowler, 2002; Clarke et al., 2008; 

Kiessling et al., 2009).

    Recreational or commercial fishing gear may be abandoned or lost at 

sea. These ``ghost'' nets are an entanglement hazard for sawfishes and 

have become an increasing problem in the Gulf of Carpentaria where over 

5,500 ``ghost nets'' were removed in 2009. Sawfish captures are 

expected to occur in regions where no quantitative information about 

``ghost nets'' exists (Gunn et al., 2010).

    Misidentification, general species-composition grouping, and 

failure to record information are all concerns for reporting sawfish 

captures in direct or indirect commercial fisheries (Stobutzki et al., 

2002b). With little enforcement of regional and international laws, the 

practice of landing sawfishes may continue (NMFS, 2010a). All sawfish 

populations have been declining worldwide, partly due to the negative 

effects of commercial fishing (Stevens et al., 2000; Peverell, 2008).


Recreational Fisheries


    Sawfish are bycatch of many recreational fisheries throughout their 

range, even in areas where they are protected, including many 

Australian rivers (Walden and Nou, 2008; Field et al., 2009). Peverell 

(2008) reports that some sawfish are a target sport fish for 

recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland. Historic 

information from the U.S. indicates that recreational hook and line 

fishers in Texas sometimes target large sharks as trophy fish but may 

capture sawfish (Burgess et al., 2009). Elsewhere in the U.S., the 

abundance of sawfishes is low and likely never high enough for 

recreational fishers to encounter sawfish, much less target it (NMFS, 

2010a). With the increase in human population along the coast, recreational fishing has the potential to 

put additional pressure on sawfish species that utilize coastal 

habitats (Walden and Nou, 2008).


Indigenous Take


    Due to the large populations of various indigenous people 

throughout the range of these five species, and the lack of data on the 

animals they harvest, the number of sawfish taken by local peoples is 

unknown. Elasmobranchs are caught for consumption throughout the Indo-

Pacific. In some areas the meat and fins of these animals is of high 

market value and are sold rather than consumed. Due to this unregulated 

consumption, removal of elasmobranchs, which includes sawfishes, is a 

serious threat (Compagno and Last, 1999; Pogonoski et al., 2002; 

Vidthayanon, 2002; Thorburn et al., 2007; Peverell, 2008; Morgan et 

al., 2010a).

    Some studies have been conducted on the use and value of 

elasmobranch parts to various indigenous groups, particularly those in 

eastern Sabah, Indonesia. One study (Almada-Villela, 2002) found the 

majority of natives from Pulau Tetabuan and Pulau Mabul only take what 

is necessary for subsistence. Sawfish rostra are also valued and kept 

as decoration or given as gifts at the expense of the animal (Almada-

Villela, 2002; McDavitt et al., 1996; Vidthayanon, 2002).


Protective Coastal Nets


    The use of protective gillnets to prevent shark attacks on humans 

is great in some areas but can have a negative impact due to bycatch. 

Sawfishes are highly susceptible to nets because of their saws that are 

easily tangled in the nets. In Africa, the first protective gillnets 

lined the southeast tip of the continent's coast as early as 1952. By 

1990, over 44 km of nets lined the area between Richards Bay and Mzamba 

(Dudley and Cliff, 1993). In these nets specifically, about 350 sharks 

and rays were captured between 1981 and 1990. A high percentage of 

entangled sawfish are released alive because of their ability to 

breathe while motionless. Dudley and Cliff (1993) reported 100 percent 

and 67 percent of largetooth and smalltooth sawfish caught during that 

time were released alive. However, subsequent mortality post-release 

due to stress or injury from the process is unknown and potentially 

detrimental given other fishing pressures (Dudley and Cliff, 1993).


Scientific and Educational Uses


    Because of their unique morphology, sawfishes are in high demand by 

aquariums throughout the world for display (McDavitt et al., 1996). 

Removal of these animals from their natural habitats has caused some 

concern for these sawfish species and their ecosystems. The animals 

removed from the wild could be adult females and would not available 

for reproduction (Anak, 2002; Harsan and Petrescu-Mag, 2008). No 

information is available on the level of mortality that occurs during 

the capture and transporting of live sawfish to aquaria.

    Worldwide, we are not aware of any narrow sawfish in captivity 

(Peverell, 2005; 2008). We are aware of two dwarf sawfish held in 

captivity in Japan (McDavitt, 2006). Largetooth sawfish are the most 

common sawfish species in captivity (NMFS, 2010a). Juvenile largetooth 

are most often caught for the aquaria trade, measuring less than 3.5 ft 

(1 m) TL on average (Peter and Tan, 1997). We are aware of over 45 

individual largetooth sawfish in captivity globally.

    Globally, scientists are collecting information on sawfish biology. 

Research efforts began in 2003, on the U.S. DPS population of 

smalltooth sawfish and no negative impacts have been found due to that 


    While no quantitative data on fishery impacts are available, we 

conclude that given the susceptibility of sawfish to entanglement in 

predominant fishing gear (nets) throughout their range, that sawfishes 

are likely captured as incidental take as we are not aware of any 

fisheries specifically targeting sawfishes. This impact from fisheries 

is the most likely cause of the range contraction and presumed low 

number in many areas of their former range. There are few data 

available describing the trade of sawfish parts, however we are aware 

sawfish parts are often sold on Internet sites such as eBay. The use of 

sawfish teeth as cockfighting spurs and the sale of meat and fins for 

consumption continue. Therefore we conclude the overutilization for 

commercial and recreational purposes, alone or in combination with 

other factors as discussed herein, is contributing significantly to the 

risk of extinction of the narrow, dwarf, largetooth, green, and the 

non-U.S. DPS of smalltooth sawfish.


Disease and Predation


    We determine disease and predation are not potential threats to any 

of the five species of sawfish and that it is unlikely that this 

factor, on its own or in combination with other factors is, currently 

or in the foreseeable future contributing significantly to their risk 

of extinction.

    Although sympatric with other sawfishes and large sharks, we are 

not aware of any studies or information documenting interspecific 

competition in terms of either habitat or prey (NMFS, 2010a). Thorson 

(1971) speculated that the Lake Nicaragua bull shark population may 

compete with the sawfishes, as both were quite prevalent, but he 

offered no additional data. Sawfishes have been documented within the 

stomach of a dolphin near Bermuda (Bigelow and Schroeder, 1953; Monte-

Luna et al., 2009), in the stomach of a bull shark in Australia 

(Thorburn et al., 2004), and a juvenile smalltooth sawfish was captured 

in the U.S. with fresh bite marks from what appeared to be a bull shark 

(T. Wiley-Lescher, pers. comm.). The International Union for 

Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List states that crocodiles prey on 

sawfishes (Cook, S.F. & Compagno, L.J.V. 2005).

    Scientific data does not exist on diseases that may affect 

sawfishes, but there are reports of a smalltooth sawfish found dead 

during a red tide event on the west coast of Florida (International 

Sawfish Encounter Database, 2009). There is no evidence that unusual 

levels of disease or predation on their own, or in combination with 

other factors, pose an extinction risk to any of these sawfishes.


Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms


    We identified inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms as a 

potential threat to each of the five species of sawfish. We determined 

that this factor alone, or in combination with other factors, is 

currently, and in the foreseeable future, contributing significantly to 

their risk of extinction.

    While the use of turtle exclusion devices (TEDs) in the nets of 

trawl fisheries to conserve sea turtles occurs throughout the range of 

sawfishes, TEDs are not efficient in directing sawfish out of nets 

because sawfish rostra get entangled (Stobutzki et al., 2002a; Brewer 

et al., 2006) prior to reaching the TED. TEDs are often used when 

trawling occurs along the sea bottom or at depths of 49 ft to 131 ft 

(15 to 40 m), both areas where sawfish are likely to be found 

(Stobutzki et al., 2002a). Most sawfishes show no difference in 

recovery after going through a trawl net, regardless of the presence or 

absence of a TED (Griffiths, 2006). Stobutzki et al. (2002a) found that 

large females are more likely to survive after passing through a 

trawling net compared to smaller males.


[[Page 33320]]


Only narrow sawfish were found to benefit from the presence of TEDs in 

nets as 73.3 percent escaped (Brewer et al., 2006; Griffiths, 2006). In 

general, TEDs tend to have negligible or a negative impact on sawfish 

that get captured by trawling nets (Stobutzki et al., 2002a; Griffiths, 

2006), but they do provide an escape route if the animal does not get 


    While the international organizations including the Trade Records 

Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce (TRAFFIC), the Food and 

Agricultural Organization (FAO), the International Council for the 

Exploration of the Sea (ICES), and the International Commission for the 

Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) work to develop global networks 

to monitor wildlife trade, there is no consistent reporting of the 

trade in elasmobranchs (Clarke et al., 2008; Lack and Sant, 2011) 

perhaps due to their lower commercial value compared to bony fish 

(Holmes et al., 2009). Data reporting is often inconsistent among these 

groups, customs agencies and national fisheries (Anak, 2002). Reports 

are often vague and include general descriptions like ``shark fin'' or 

``ray,'' lending practically no information of trading rates of 

specific products (Lack and Sant, 2011). Other countries in the Indo-

Pacific do not report bycatch statistics or elasmobranchs taken 

illegally (Holmes et al., 2009). In order for effective management 

plans to be implemented in fin markets and for sawfish product trade, 

data need to be consistent.

    Many countries in the Indo-Pacific and the Middle East do not have 

formal legislation for management or national protection of the sawfish 

that may occur in their waters. Presently, Thailand has no protective 

legislation for any elasmobranch in the country, only some regulated 

fisheries (Vidthayanon, 2002). Thailand recently (1995) banned export 

of marine species for aquaria (Vidthayanon, 2002). Despite efforts by 

the International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of 

Sharks (IPOA Shark Plan) requiring all Gulf of Oman countries to have a 

shark conservation plan by 2001, none have been developed as of 2010. 

Iran has no regulations regarding fin removal, but they do limit the 

shark fishing season in the Gulf of Oman (Moore, 2011). The countries 

in Africa face similar circumstances as enforcement for sawfish 

protection is unknown (NMFS, 2010a). Those countries that do have 

protective legislation are often taken advantage of by foreign vessels 

because no punishment results. In one study, DNA barcoding was used to 

identify fins from the green sawfish confiscated from foreign boats 

illegally fishing in northern Australian waters (Holmes, 2009).

    While it appears that several organizations are trying to regulate 

and manage sawfish, many have proven to be inadequate. Illegal 

exploitation by foreign fishers often occurs when regulations exist but 

are not enforced (Kiessling et al., 2009). Preventative measures on 

existing fishing mechanisms to avoid sawfish catch, international 

monitoring of trade and governmental influence on fisheries are not 

presently sufficient to protect sawfishes. Specific regulation and 

monitoring of sawfishes by country would provide better protection 

(Vidthayanon, 2002; Walden and Nou, 2008). Therefore we conclude the 

inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms has and continues to 

significantly contribute to the risk of extinction of the narrow, 

dwarf, largetooth, green, and the non-U.S. DPS of smalltooth sawfish.


Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting its Continued Existence


    We do not have information to determine that other natural or 

manmade factors are potential threats to any of the five species of 

sawfishes and conclude it is unlikely that this factor, on its own or 

in combination with other factors, is currently or in the foreseeable 

future contributing significantly to the risk of extinction.

    An increase in global sea-surface temperature and sea level may 

already be influencing sawfish populations (Clark, 2006; Walden and 

Nou, 2008; Chin et al., 2010). Fish assemblages are likely to change 

their distribution and could affect the prey base for sawfishes. 

Estuaries, including sawfish pupping grounds, may be affected as 

climate change changes patterns in freshwater flow due to rainfall and 

droughts. Skewed salinities in these areas or extreme tide levels might 

discourage adults from making up-river migrations (Clark, 2006). 

Saltwater marsh grass and mangrove areas play important roles in 

sawfish habitat as well (Simpfendorfer et al., 2010); any disruption to 

these areas may affect sawfish populations. While many scientists can 

agree on the presence of climate change, few can agree on the effects 

that climate change will have on sawfish and their environments 

specifically (Clark, 2006; Chin et al., 2010).

    Red tide is the common name for a harmful algal bloom (HAB) of 

marine algae (Karenia brevis) that can make the ocean appear red or 

brown. Karenia brevis is one of the first species ever reported to have 

caused a HAB and is principally distributed throughout the Gulf of 

Mexico, with occasional red tides in the mid- and south-Atlantic U.S. 

Karenia brevis naturally produces a brevetoxin that is absorbed 

directly across the gill membranes of fish or through ingestion of 

algal cells. While many HAB species are nontoxic to humans or small 

mammals, they can have significant effects on aquatic organisms. Fish 

mortalities associated with K. brevis events are very common and 

widespread. The mortalities affect hundreds of species during various 

stages of development. Red tide toxins can cause intoxication in fish, 

which may include violent twisting and corkscrew swimming, defecation 

and regurgitation, pectoral fin paralysis, caudal fin curvature, loss 

of equilibrium, quiescence, vasodilation, and convulsions, culminating 

in death. However, it is known that fish can die at lower cell 

concentrations and can also apparently survive in much higher 

concentrations. In some instances, mortality from red tide is not acute 

but may occur over a period of days or weeks of exposure to subacute 

toxin concentrations. There is no specific information on red tide 

effects to sawfish, but a report exists of a smalltooth sawfish that 

was found dead along the west coast of Florida, during a red tide event 

(National Sawfish Encounter Database, 2009). Therefore, we conclude red 

tide can affect all sawfish species (NMFS, 2010a).

    Sawfishes have slow growth rates, late maturity, a long life span, 

and low fecundity rates which make them K-selected animals. K-selected 

animals can compete successfully in predictable or stable environments. 

K-selected characteristics do not enable them to respond rapidly to 

additional sources of mortality, such as overexploitation and habitat 

degradation. Collectively these other natural or manmade factors may be 

affecting the continued existence of the narrow, dwarf, largetooth, 

green, and the non-U.S. DPS of smalltooth sawfish. However, we are 

uncertain on the importance of these threats and additional studies are 

needed to determine the importance of other manmade and natural factors 

to the long-term survival of all five species of sawfishes.


Overall Risk Summary


    After considering the extinction risks for each of the five species 

of sawfish, we have determined the narrow, dwarf, largetooth, green, 

and the non-U.S. DPS of smalltooth sawfish are in danger of extinction 

throughout all of their ranges due to (1) Present or threatened 

destruction, modification or curtailment 

of habitat, (2) overutilization for commercial, recreational, 

scientific, or educational purposed, and (3) inadequacy of existing 

regulatory mechanisms.


Protective Efforts


    Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the ESA requires the Secretary, when making a 

listing determination for a species, to take into consideration those 

efforts, if any, being made by any State or foreign nation to protect 

the species. In judging the efficacy of not yet implemented efforts, or 

those existing protective efforts that are not yet fully effective, we 

rely on the Services' joint ``Policy for Evaluation of Conservation 

Efforts When Making Listing Decisions'' (``PECE''; 68 FR 15100; March 

28, 2003). The PECE policy is designed to ensure consistent and 

adequate evaluation on whether any conservation efforts that have been 

recently adopted or implemented, but not yet proven to be successful, 

will result in recovering the species to the point at which listing is 

not warranted or contribute to forming the basis for listing a species 

as threatened rather than endangered. The PECE policy is expected to 

facilitate the development of conservation efforts by states and other 

entities that sufficiently improve a species' status so as to make 

listing the species as threatened or endangered unnecessary.

    The PECE policy establishes two basic criteria to use in evaluating 

efforts identified in conservations plans, conservation agreements, 

management plans or similar documents: (1) the certainty that the 

conservation efforts will be implemented; and (2) the certainty that 

the efforts will be effective. We evaluated conservation efforts to 

protect and recover sawfish that are either underway but not yet fully 

implemented, or are only planned.

    All sawfishes in the family Pristidae were listed on Appendix 1 of 

the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild 

Fauna and Flora (CITES) at the 14th Conference of the Parties meeting 

in 2007. An Appendix I listing bans all commercial trade in parts or 

derivatives of sawfish with trade in specimens of these species 

permitted only in exceptional circumstances (e.g., for research 

purposes). An annotation to the Appendix I listing allows the 

largetooth sawfish P. microdon (herein P. pristis) to be treated as 

Appendix II ``for the exclusive purpose of allowing international trade 

in live animals to appropriate and acceptable aquaria for primarily 

conservation purposes.'' The annotation was accepted on the basis that 

Australian populations of P. microdon are robust relative to other 

populations in the species' range; and that the capture of individuals 

for aquaria is not likely to be detrimental to the population. At the 

CITES 16th Annual Conference of the Parties (COP) in March of 2013 

Australia's proposal to transfer P. microdon from Appendix II to 

Appendix I was adopted. While the recent banning of all trade of 

largetooth sawfish has the potential to reduce the number of live 

animals removed for aquaria trade, the potential effect of this effort 

is unknown, but not likely to significantly affect the species outside 

of the limited area where it had been harvested for this trade. Because 

trade is not a current threat placing the five species of sawfishes at 

risk of extinction, moving the largetooth sawfish from CITES Appendix 

II to Appendix I to further restrict trade cannot be considered as an 

effective measure in reducing the current extinction risk.


Proposed Determination


    Section 4(b)(1) of the ESA requires that we make listing 

determinations based solely on the best scientific and commercial data 

available after conducting a review of the status of the species and 

taking into account those efforts, if any, being made by any state or 

foreign nation, or political subdivisions thereof, to protect and 

conserve the species. We have reviewed the best available scientific 

and commercial information including the petition, and the information 

in the review of the status of the five species of sawfishes, and we 

have consulted with species experts. We are responsible for determining 

whether narrow sawfish (A. cuspidata), dwarf sawfish (P. clavata), 

largetooth sawfish (P. pristis), green sawfish (P. zijsron), and all 

non-U.S. DPS of smalltooth sawfish (P. pectinata) are threatened or 

endangered under the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Accordingly, we have 

followed a stepwise approach as outlined above in making this listing 

determination for these five species of sawfish. We have determined 

that narrow sawfish (A. cuspidata); dwarf sawfish (P. clavata); 

largetooth sawfish (P. pristis); green sawfish (P. zijsron); and all 

non-U.S. DPS of smalltooth sawfish (P. pectinata) constitute species as 

defined by the ESA.

    Based on the information presented, we find that all five species 

of sawfishes are in danger of extinction throughout all of their 

ranges. We assessed the ESA section 4(a)(1) factors and conclude the 

narrow, dwarf, largetooth, green, and the non-U.S. DPS of smalltooth 

sawfish face ongoing threats from habitat alteration, overutilization 

for commercial and recreational purposes, and the inadequacy of 

existing regulatory mechanisms throughout their ranges. All of the 

threats attributed to the species decline are ongoing except the 

fishery in Lake Nicaragua that collapsed, presumably with the 

largetooth sawfish population. After considering efforts being made to 

protect these sawfishes, we could not conclude the proposed 

conservation efforts would alter the extinction risk for any of these 

five sawfishes.


Effects of Listing


    Conservation measures provided for species listed as endangered or 

threatened under the ESA include recovery actions (16 U.S.C. 1533(f)), 

concurrent designation of critical habitat if prudent and determinable 

(16 U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(A)); Federal agency requirements to consult with 

NMFS and to ensure its actions do not jeopardize the species or result 

in adverse modification or destruction of critical habitat should it be 

designated (16 U.S.C. 1536); and prohibitions on taking (16 U.S.C. 

1538). Recognition of the species' plight through listing promotes 

conservation actions by Federal and state agencies, foreign entities, 

private groups, and individuals. Should the proposed listing be made 

final, recovery plans may be developed, unless they would not promote 

the conservation of the species.


Identifying Section 7 Consultation Requirements


    Section 7(a)(2) (16 U.S.C. 1536(a)(2)) of the ESA and NMFS/USFWS 

regulations require Federal agencies to consult with us to ensure that 

activities authorized, funded, or carried out are not likely to 

jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or destroy or 

adversely modify critical habitat. Section 7(a)(2) (16 U.S.C. 

1536(a)(2)) of the ESA and NMFS/USFWS regulations also require Federal 

agencies to confer with us on actions likely to jeopardize the 

continued existence of species proposed for listing, or that result in 

the destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. 

It is possible, but highly unlikely, that the listing of the five 

species of sawfish under the ESA may create a minor increase in the 

number of section 7 consultations for high seas activities.


Critical Habitat


    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the ESA (16 U.S.C. 

1532(5)) as: (1) the specific areas within the geographical area 

occupied by a species, at the time it is listed in accordance with the 



[[Page 33322]]


on which are found those physical or biological features (a) essential 

to the conservation of the species and (b) that may require special 

management considerations or protection; and (2) specific areas outside 

the geographical area occupied by a species at the time it is listed 

upon a determination that such areas are essential for the conservation 

of the species. ``Conservation'' means the use of all methods and 

procedures needed to bring the species to the point at which listing 

under the ESA is no longer necessary. Section 4(a)(3)(A) of the ESA (16 

U.S.C. 1533(a)(3)(A)) requires that, to the extent prudent and 

determinable, critical habitat be designated concurrently with the 

listing of a species. Critical habitat shall not be designated in 

foreign countries or other areas outside U.S. jurisdiction (50 CFR 

424.12 (h)).

    The best available scientific and commercial data as discussed 

above identify the geographical areas occupied by the narrow sawfish 

(A. cuspidata), dwarf sawfish (P. clavata), green sawfish (P. zijsron), 

largetooth sawfish (P. pristis), and the non-U.S. DPS of smalltooth 

sawfish (P. pectinata) are found entirely outside U.S. jurisdiction so 

we cannot designate critical habitat for these species. We can 

designate critical habitat in unoccupied areas if the area(s) are 

determined by the Secretary to be essential for the conservation of the 

species. Regulations at 50 CFR 424.12 (e) specify that we shall 

designate as critical habitat areas outside the geographical range 

presently occupied by the species only when the designation limited to 

its present range would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the 


    The best available scientific and commercial information on the 

species does not indicate that U.S. waters provide any specific 

essential biological function other than general foraging opportunities 

for the largetooth sawfish (P. pristis). All records of P. pristis in 

U.S. waters were larger animals (adults). We are unaware of any record 

of a juvenile largetooth sawfish in U.S. waters, which suggest the 

species does not use the area for a nursery. The majority of reports 

for the largetooth sawfish in U.S. waters are during the summer months 

when water temperatures are warmer. We have no reports of the species 

that would suggest U.S. waters are used for breeding. Based on the best 

available information we have not identified unoccupied area(s) that 

are currently essential to the conservation of any of the sawfishes 

proposed for listing. Therefore, based on the available information we 

do not intend to designate critical habitat for the narrow, dwarf, 

largetooth, green, or the non-U.S. DPS of smalltooth sawfish.


Identification of Those Activities That Would Constitute a Violation of 

Section 9 of the ESA


    On July 1, 1994, NMFS and FWS published a policy (59 FR 34272) that 

requires us to identify, to the maximum extent practicable at the time 

a species is listed, those activities that would or would not 

constitute a violation of section 9 of the ESA. Because we are 

proposing to list all six sawfishes as endangered, all of the 

prohibitions of Section 9(a)(10) of the ESA will apply to all six 

species. These include prohibitions against the import, export, use in 

foreign commerce, or ``take'' of the species. Take is defined as ``to 

harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or 

collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.'' These 

prohibitions apply to all persons subject to the jurisdiction of the 

United States, including in the U.S. or on the high seas. The intent of 

this policy is to increase public awareness of the effects of this 

listing on proposed and ongoing activities within the species' range. 

Activities that we believe could result in a violation of section 9 

prohibitions of these six sawfishes include, but are not limited to, 

the following:

    (1) Take within the U.S. or its territorial sea, or upon the high 


    (2) Possessing, delivering, transporting, or shipping any sawfish 

part that was illegally taken;

    (3) Delivering, receiving, carrying, transporting, or shipping in 

interstate or foreign commerce any sawfish or sawfish part, in the 

course of a commercial activity, even if the original taking of the 

sawfish was legal;

    (4) Selling or offering for sale in interstate commerce any sawfish 

part, except antique articles at least 100 years old;

    (5) Importing or exporting sawfish or any sawfish part to or from 

any country;

    (6) Releasing captive sawfish into the wild. Although sawfish held 

non-commercially in captivity at the time of listing are exempt from 

certain prohibitions, the individual animals are considered listed and 

afforded most of the protections of the ESA, including most 

importantly, the prohibition against injuring or killing. Release of a 

captive animal has the potential to injure or kill the animal. Of an 

even greater conservation concern, the release of a captive animal has 

the potential to affect wild populations of sawfish through 

introduction of diseases or inappropriate genetic mixing. Depending on 

the circumstances of the case, NMFS may authorize the release of a 

captive animal through a section 10(a)(1)(a) permit;

    (7) Harming captive sawfish by, among other things, injuring or 

killing a captive sawfish, through experimental or potentially 

injurious veterinary care of conducting research or breeding activities 

on captive sawfish, outside the bounds of normal animal husbandry 

practices. Captive breeding of sawfish is considered experimental and 

potentially injurious. Furthermore, the production of sawfish progeny 

has conservation implications (both positive and negative) for wild 

populations. Experimental or potentially injurious veterinary 

procedures and research or breeding activities of sawfish may, 

depending on the circumstances, be authorized under an ESA 10(a)(1)(a) 

permit for scientific research or the enhancement of the propagation or 

survival of the species.

    We will identify, to the extent known at the time of the final 

rule, specific activities that will not be considered likely to result 

in a violation of section 9. Although not binding, we are considering 

the following actions, depending on the circumstances, as not being 

prohibited by ESA Section 9:

    (1) Take of a sawfish authorized by a 10(a)(1)(a) permit authorized 

by, and carried out in accordance with the terms and conditions of an 

ESA section 10(a)(1)(a) permit issued by NMFS for purposes of 

scientific research or the enhancement of the propagation or survival 

of the species;

    (2) Incidental take of a sawfish resulting from Federally 

authorized, funded, or conducted projects for which consultation under 

section 7 of the ESA has been completed, and when the otherwise lawful 

activity is conducted in accordance with any terms and conditions 

granted by NMFS in an incidental take statement in a biological opinion 

pursuant to section 7 of the ESA;

    (3) Continued possession of sawfish parts that were in possession 

at the time of listing. Such parts may be non-commercially exported or 

imported; however the importer or exporter must be able to provide 

sufficient evidence to show that the parts meet the criteria of ESA 

section 9(b)(1) (i.e., held in a controlled environment at the time of 

listing, non-commercial activity).

    (4) Continued possession of live sawfish that were in captivity or 

in a controlled environment (e.g., in aquaria) at the time of this 

listing, so long as the prohibitions under ESA section 9(a)(1) are not 

violated. Again, facilities should be able to provide evidence that the


[[Page 33323]]


sawfish were in captivity or in a controlled environment prior to 

listing. We suggest such facilities submit information to us on the 

sawfish in their possession (e.g., size, age, description of animals, 

and the source and date of acquisition) to establish their claim of 

possession (see For Further Information Contact); and

    (5) Provision of care for live sawfish that were in captivity at 

the time of listing. These individuals are still protected under the 

ESA and may not be killed or injured, or otherwise harmed, and, 

therefore, must receive proper care. Normal care of captive animals 

necessarily entails handling or other manipulation of the animals, and 

we do not consider such activities to constitute take or harassment of 

the animals so long as adequate care, including adequate veterinary 

care is provided. Such veterinary care includes confining, 

tranquilizing, or anesthetizing sawfish when such practices, 

procedures, or provisions are not likely to result in injury; and

    (6) Any interstate and foreign commerce trade of sawfishes already 

in captivity that is conducted under a CITES permit.

    Section 11(f) of the ESA gives NMFS authority to promulgate 

regulations that may be appropriate to enforce the ESA. Future 

regulations may be promulgated to regulate trade or holding of sawfish, 

if necessary. The public will be given the opportunity to comment on 

future proposed regulations.


Role of Peer Review


    In December 2004, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued 

a Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review establishing a 

minimum peer review standard. Similarly, a joint NMFS/FWS policy (59 FR 

34270; July 1, 1994) requires us to solicit independent expert review 

from qualified specialists, concurrent with the public comment period. 

The intent of the peer review policy is to ensure that listings are 

based on the best scientific and commercial data available. We 

solicited peer review comments on this 12-month finding and proposed 

rule from three NMFS scientists familiar with elasmobranchs and their 

comments are incorporated into this document. All three peer reviewers 

supported our determinations. Prior to a final listing, we will solicit 

the expert opinions of several qualified specialists selected from the 

academic and scientific community, Federal and State agencies, and the 

private sector on listing recommendations to ensure the best biological 

and commercial information is being used in the decision-making 

process, as well as to ensure that reviews by recognized experts are 

incorporated into the review process of rulemakings developed in 

accordance with the requirements of the ESA.

    We will consider peer review comments in making our determination, 

and include a summary of the comments and recommendations, if a final 

rule is published.




    A complete list of the references used in this proposed rule is 

available upon request (see ADDRESSES).




National Environmental Policy Act


    The 1982 amendments to the ESA, in section 4(b)(1)(A), restrict the 

information that may be considered when assessing species for listing. 

Based on this limitation of criteria for a listing decision and the 

opinion in Pacific Legal Foundation v. Andrus, 675 F. 2d 825 (6th Cir. 

1981), NMFS has concluded that ESA listing actions are not subject to 

the environmental assessment requirements of the National Environmental 

Policy Act (NEPA) (See NOAA Administrative Order 216-6).


Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Flexibility Act, and Paperwork 

Reduction Act


    As noted in the Conference Report on the 1982 amendments to the 

ESA, economic impacts cannot be considered when assessing the status of 

a species. Therefore, the economic analysis requirements of the 

Regulatory Flexibility Act are not applicable to the listing process. 

In addition, this proposed rule is exempt from review under Executive 

Order 12866. This proposed rule does not contain a collection-of-

information requirement for the purposes of the Paperwork Reduction 



Executive Order 13132, Federalism


    In accordance with E.O. 13132, we determined that this proposed 

rule does not have significant Federalism effects and that a Federalism 

assessment is not required. In keeping with the intent of the 

Administration and Congress to provide continuing and meaningful 

dialogue on issues of mutual state and Federal interest, this proposed 

rule will be given to the relevant governmental agencies in the 

countries in which the species occurs, and they will be invited to 

comment. NMFS will confer with U.S. Department of State to ensure 

appropriate notice is given to foreign nations within the range of all 

five species. As the process continues, NMFS intends to continue 

engaging in informal and formal contacts with the U.S. State 

Department, giving careful consideration to all written and oral 

comments received.


Public Comments Solicited


    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 

be as accurate as possible and informed by the best available 

scientific and commercial information. Therefore, we request comments 

or information from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, 

the scientific community, industry, environmental groups or any other 

interested party concerning this proposed rule. We particularly seek 

comments containing:

    (1) Information concerning the location(s) of any sightings or 

captures of the species;

    (2) Information concerning the threats to the species;

    (3) Taxonomic information on the species;

    (4) Information related to the determination of a non-U.S. DPS of 

smalltooth sawfish;

    (5) Efforts being made to protect the species throughout their 

current range;

    (6) Information on the aquaria trade of these species; and

    (7) Information on the movement patterns of smalltooth sawfish.

    Public hearing requests must be made by July 19, 2013.


List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 224


    Administrative practice and procedure, Endangered and threatened 

species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, 



    Dated: May 29, 2013.

Alan D. Risenhoover,

Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 

duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, 

National Marine Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 224 is 

proposed to be amended as follows:





1. The authority citation for part 224 continues to read as follows:


    Authority:  16 U.S.C. 1531-1543 and 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.



2. In Sec.  224.101, paragraph (a), revise the entries in the table for 

``Smalltooth sawfish'' and ``Largetooth sawfish'', and add new entries 

for four new species the ``Narrow Sawfish'', ``Dwarf Sawfish'', 

``Smalltooth Sawfish, Non-U.S. DPS'', and ``Green Sawfish'' at the end 

of the table to read as follows:


[[Page 33324]]


Sec.  224.101  Enumeration of endangered marine and anadromous species.


* * * * *

    (a) * * *



                     Species                                            Citation(s) for       Citation(s) for

--------------------------------------------------    Where Listed          listing          critical habitat

          Common name            Scientific name                       determination(s)       designation(s)



                                                  * * * * * * *

Smalltooth Sawfish, U.S. DPS..  Pristis pectinata  Everywhere Found   68 FR 15674, Apr.   74 FR 45353, Sept. 2,

                                                    U.S.A..            1, 2003.            2009.


                                                  * * * * * * *

Largetooth sawfish............  Pristis pristis    Everywhere Found.  76 FR 40835, July   NA.

                                 (Pristis                              12, 2011.





                                                  * * * * * * *

Narrow Sawfish................  Anoxypristis       Everywhere Found.  [Federal Register   NA.

                                 cuspidata.                            citation and date

                                                                       when published as

                                                                       a final rule].

Dwarf Sawfish.................  Pristis clavata..  Everywhere Found.  [Federal Register   NA.

                                                                       citation and date

                                                                       when published as

                                                                       a final rule].

Smalltooth Sawfish, Non-U.S.    Pristis pectinata  Everywhere Found   [Federal Register   NA.

 DPS.                                               Outside U.S.       citation and date

                                                    Waters.            when published as

                                                                       a final rule].

Green Sawfish.................  Pristis zijsron..  Everywhere Found.  [Federal Register   NA.

                                                                       citation and date

                                                                       when published as

                                                                       a final rule].


\1\ Species includes taxonomic species, subspecies, distinct population segments (DPSs) (for a policy statement,

  see 61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996), and evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) (for a policy statement, see 56

  FR 58612, November 20, 1991).