Save the Sawfish

The Cause

Now is the time to save this magnificent species.



Save the Sawfish -- A quest for a legend and the future of Florida from PRESSLAUNCH on Vimeo.

Endangered ListingSawfish - Credit Petr Kratochvil

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) listed the U.S. population of smalltooth sawfish as endangered on April 1, 2003. NMFS and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have been designated to develop and implement recovery plans to promote the conservation of this species.

The Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Team (SSRT) was created to develop a recovery plan. This team is comprised of smalltooth sawfish scientists and management experts from the state and federal government and the non-governmental sector.


Current Species Status

Smalltooth sawfish were once prevalent throughout Florida and were commonly encountered from Texas to North Carolina. Currently, smalltooth sawfish can only be found with any regularity in south Florida between the Caloosahatchee River and the Florida Keys. Based on the contraction in range and data, it is likely that the population is currently at a level less than 5% of its size at the time of European settlement.

Species Map

















Juvenile smalltooth sawfish generally inhabit the shallow coastal waters of bays, banks, estuaries, and river mouths, particularly shallow mud banks and mangrove habitats. Larger animals can be found in the same habitat, but are also found offshore at depths up to at least 122 meters.
The primary reason for the decline of the smalltooth sawfish population has been bycatch in various
commercial and recreational fisheries. The secondary reason for the decline of the population is habitat loss and degradation. Other threats to the species include entanglement in marine debris, injury from saw removal, pollution, and disturbance of natural behavior by divers and other marine activities.
Life history characteristics are a limiting factor for the species’ ability to recover. Sawfish are slow
growing, late maturing, and produce small numbers of young; hence, recovery will take decades, even if
all threats are effectively eliminated.



The goal of the recovery plan is to rebuild and assure the long-term viability of the U.S. population of
smalltooth sawfish in the wild, allowing initially for reclassification from endangered to threatened status (downlisting) and ultimately recovery and removal from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (delisting). Recovery of smalltooth sawfish throughout the core of its historic range (defined as the waters off the coast of Florida) plus the presence and protection of sawfish outside of its core historic Sawfish Illustrationrange will ensure that the species is not in danger of extinction and may be delisted. Through awareness initiates and research and monitoring efforts, this goal can can be achieved.




Sawfish Image

Population Recovery Strategy

The recovery strategy has three main objectives which include actions to rebuild and monitor the population while also eliminating or managing the threats that resulted in the endangered listing.

  • Minimize human interactions and associated injury and mortality.

  • Protect and/or restore smalltooth sawfish habitats.

  • Ensure smalltooth sawfish abundance increases substantially
    and the species reoccupies areas from which it has disappeared.


Literature CITATION

National Marine Fisheries Service. 2009. Recovery Plan for Smalltooth Sawfish (Pristis pectinata).
Prepared by the Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Team for the National Marine Fisheries Service, Silver
Spring, Maryland.

Florida Museum of Natural History

For more information please visit the Florida Museum of Natural History

What Are the Threats to Sawfish?

  • Entanglement in fishing gear and marine debris

  • Indirect take as by-catch in other directed fisheries

  • Loss of habitat, coastal development and marine pollution

  • Keeping the saws as a "souvenir" and using the fins for soup


Why Should We
Save Them?

  • Sawfish are already listed as an Endangered species Smalltooth

  • Sawfish are a part of our natural biodiversity and contribute to the ecological balance of aquatic habitats

  • We need to try to protect and conserve this balance

How Are We
Saving Them?

  • Scientists are researching age, growth, reproduction, movement patterns, and habitat use of the smalltooth sawfish

  • This will assist in management and recovery of this endangered species.

What Should You Do If You Encounter?

  • It is illegal to harm, harass, or handle them in any way. If you do see a sawfish, enjoy the moment and feel extremely lucky!

  • Accidental captures do occur while fishing for other species

  • If a sawfish is hooked or netted, it should be released immediately and try to keep it underwater while doing so

  • Remove as much fishing gear as safely possible - DO NOT REMOVE THE SAW.

  • Encounters should be reported to the National Sawfish Encounter Database to assist with
    ongoing scientific research

Additional Resources

Click the links below to download pdf documents


Sawfish Recovery







Smalltooth Sawfish
Recovery Plan


National Oceanic and







National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration