Lab Canada

Canadian researcher develops strategy to protect sawfish from extinction

Vancouver, BC – Nicholas Dulvy, Canada Research Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Simon Fraser University, is leading a global strategy to prevent extinction and promote recovery of sawfish, which now face risk of extinction due to overfishing and habitat loss.

A full strategy report was released in June 2014 by the Shark Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as part of the Sharks International conference in Durban, South Africa.

“The sawfishes, revered for millennia by coastal cultures around the world, now face greater extinction risk than any other family of marine fish,” says Dulvy, who co-chairs the IUCN Shark Specialist Group.

Sawfish are warm-water, shark-like rays characterized by long, toothed snouts called rostra. They are the largest of the rays, and can reach over seven meters in length. Once found in the coastal waters and rivers of more than 90 tropical and subtropical countries, all five species of sawfishes are today classified as Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Complementing an existing ban on commercial international sawfish trade, the strategy led by Dulvy and the other shark specialists calls for 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 strategy report is the result of a 2012 workshop which saw the world’s sawfish experts develope a global sawfish conservation vision with defined goals and prioritized actions. It includes information on sawfish biology, distribution, cultural value, exploitation history, current threats, regional status accounts and conservation policies compiled by leading authorities.