Tracking the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish, Pristis pectinata
The smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) is one of the largest imperiled marine vertebrates in the world, with a geographic range contraction of 81%. There are positive signs of a viable population of smalltooth sawfish in Andros that is not habitat-limited, which may prove crucial to recovery of the species globally. Critical to this recovery is a determination of the connectivity between smalltooth sawfish populations and potential spillover of smalltooth sawfish from the Bahamas to neighboring regions. Our team in collaboration with scientists from NOAA and Florida State University will use acoustic tracking technology to explore the habitat and space use in east Andros, including the middle bight and reef drop-off to the Tongue of the Ocean (TOTO). It is particularly important as despite their imperiled global status and safety in the national park on the west side of Andros, no such national or species-specific protection is in place on the east.
Sawfish (family Pristidae) are among the world’s most threatened marine fishes. They are a small group of batoids (rays) usually occurring in shallow, coastal habitats in tropical and subtropical waters including estuarine and freshwater habitats. All five species face a very high risk of global extinction based on severe declines in their numbers and geographical distribution over the past century. This perilous status is due to commercial and recreational fishing mortality, primarily as by-catch, combined with the loss of critical near-shore habitat due to coastal development and low reproductive potential, making the species vulnerable to anthropogenic effects. Most notably among Pristidae, the smalltooth sawfish is potentially at greatest risk because it has the smallest and most fragmented remaining geographic range. Historically found in the waters of 47 Atlantic nations, the smalltooth sawfish is now considered extirpated from 26 countries, presence uncertain in 16, and extant in only five.
To what extent is east Andros used by the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish?
What temporal patterns of habitat use do smalltooth sawfish have in this region?
Is east Andros a migratory corridor for smalltooth sawfish, with transient use or do animals in this region display philopatry (i.e. residency or site fidelity) to particular areas?