NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is conducting an investigation involving the deaths of six critically endangered smalltooth sawfish in Everglades City, Florida. An employee with Everglades National Park reported the dead sawfish and two dead bonnethead sharks to NOAA experts. Two of the sawfish are missing their rostra (saws). One other had its meat removed, leaving only the carcass.
The animals were found along the causeway between Everglades City and Chokoloskee Island. A sawfish biologist from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will perform a necropsy on the animals to try to determine the cause of death.
Smalltooth sawfish are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. They were once found in the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to Florida and along the East Coast from Florida to North Carolina. Their distribution has decreased greatly in U.S. waters over the past century. Today, the species is generally only found off the coast of Florida, especially Southwest Florida where sawfish give birth. They reproduce every other year and give birth to just 7-14 young. The loss of these six animals is nearly equivalent to one mother’s entire litter.
NOAA officials seek information from anyone who may have details about this incident and are offering a reward up to $20,000 for information leading to a criminal conviction or the assessment of a civil penalty.
Please call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously.