An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Mote Marine Laboratory provides critical role for potential rescue of endangered smalltooth sawfish

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Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is providing a critical role for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in their response effort to address smalltooth sawfish erratic behavior and mortality in the Florida Keys.

Over the past few months, sightings of “spinning” fish have been reported in South Florida. Along with this abnormal behavior, there have also been reports of fish deaths, including 28 smalltooth sawfish as of March 24. Approximately 109 sawfish ranging from 10-14 feet in length have been affected.

The death of smalltooth sawfish in South Florida could have devastating consequences for this critically endangered ray and negatively impact population recovery that has been occurring since the species was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2003.

Scientists do not yet know what is causing the erratic behavior. NOAA has initiated an emergency response effort with FWC, Mote Marine Laboratory, and other partners including Havenworth Coastal Conservation, Dynasty Marine Associates, Inc., and Ripley’s Aquariums, to possibly rescue, rehabilitate, and release smalltooth sawfish impacted by this mortality event. Investigations into the abnormal fish behavior and deaths by FWC are ongoing and Mote staff, working with FWC, have collected important samples from live distressed sawfish.