Global strategy to save sawfish

June 5, 2014, Simon Fraser University
The largest of the ray family, sawfishes have been driven to the brink of extinction by overfishing and habitat loss. Credit: Simon Fraser University Public Affairs and Media Relations

In an era when global solutions to massive problems like climate change seem elusive, a Simon Fraser University professor is relieved to see that a partial solution exists for rescuing sawfishes from extinction.

At the Sharks International Conference in Durban, South Africa, the Shark Specialist Group (SSG) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has just unveiled a global strategy to save and protect sawfishes.

"The sawfishes, revered for millennia by coastal cultures around the world, now face greater than any other family of marine fish," says strategy lead Nick Dulvy. His involvement in this research exemplifies how SFU engages the world.

The IUCN SSG co-chair and SFU Canada Research Chair notes: "With this comprehensive strategy, we aim to reignite sawfish reverence and spark conservation action in time to bring these iconic fish back from the brink of extinction."

The largest of the ray family, these shark-like fish with long, toothed snouts have been driven to the brink of extinction by overfishing and habitat loss. One of the top predators in the world's marine ecosystems, the loss of these seven-metre long creatures will contribute to destabilizing and unraveling ecosystems.

The SSG's proposed strategy would:

  • Complement an existing ban on commercial international sawfish trade;
  • Implement national and regional actions to prohibit intentional killing of sawfish;
  • Minimize mortality of accidental catches;
  • Protect sawfish habitats;
  • And ensure effective enforcement of such safeguards.
The largest of the ray family, sawfishes have been driven to the brink of extinction by overfishing and habitat loss. Credit: Simon Fraser University Public Affairs and Media Relations

The announcement in Durban of a strategy to save sawfishes coincides with that of another life-saving suggestion. Three African countries are proposing the listing of sawfishes under the Convention on Migratory Species, which would significantly boost their protection.

The SSG strategy is the result of a 2012 workshop where the world's sawfish experts developed a global sawfish conservation vision, goals and prioritized actions. The document also includes information on sawfish biology, distribution, cultural value, exploitation history, current threats, regional status accounts and conservation policies compiled by leading authorities.

The strategy's fate depends entirely on new funding to finance its implementation.

Explore further: Study says sharks/rays globally overfished

Related Stories

Study says sharks/rays globally overfished

January 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —One quarter of the world's cartilaginous fish, namely sharks and rays, face extinction within the next few decades, according to the first study to systematically and globally assess their fate.

Sawfishes sure can wield a saw (w/ video)

March 5, 2012

Sawfishes wouldn't be sawfishes if they didn't come equipped with long toothy snouts—their saws. Now, researchers reporting in the March 6 issue of Current Biology, have figured out what they use those saws for, and ...

Majestic manta ray designated vulnerable species

November 15, 2011

Diving with the majestic manta ray is an eco-tourist’s dream come true that may soon be experienced only by viewing pictures and videos of the shark family’s graceful giants.

What sawfish really do with their saw

June 9, 2011

Scientists thought that sawfish used their saw to probe the sea bottom for food.  But a Cairns researcher has found that these large (5 meters or more) and endangered fish actually use the saw to locate and dismember ...

Not Finding Nemo becomes a reality

December 13, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Three Simon Fraser University biologists and an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) scientist say it’s no longer fiction but fact. No one will be able to find Nemo if conservation action ...

Recommended for you

Cells lacking nuclei struggle to move in 3-D environments

January 20, 2018

University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers have revealed new details of how the physical properties of the nucleus influence how cells can move around different environments - such as ...

Microbial communities demonstrate high turnover

January 19, 2018

When Mark Twain famously said "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes," he probably didn't anticipate MIT researchers would apply his remark to their microbial research. But a new study does ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.