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

Water-Related News

NOAA announces plans to begin rescuing sick sawfish amid a mysterious die-off

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday it will take the unprecedented step of catching and caring for sick sawfish in an effort to prevent ongoing deaths.

As the number of endangered sawfish deathscontinues to rise in the Lower Keys, federal wildlife officials announced plans Wednesday to take the unprecedented step of trying to rescue sick fish.

“An effort of this kind has never been done before in the United States. The logistics are complex,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement.

Starting next week, the agency said it will begin catching sawfish showing signs of distress to try to prevent more deaths. As of March 24, 28 rare smalltooth sawfish had been confirmed dead, with 109 affected by an ailment scientists have not yet been able to identify. The first death was reported in late January, amid widespread reports of dozens of other species in the Lower Keys spinning and showing signs of distress.

“We suspect that total mortalities are greater, since sawfish are negatively buoyant and thus unlikely to float after death,” NOAA Fisheries’ sawfish recovery coordinator Adam Brame said in the statement. “Given the limited population size of smalltooth sawfish, the mortality of at least two dozen sawfish could have an impact on the recovery of this species.”

NOAA said it will work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Havenworth Coastal Conservation, Ripley’s Aquariums, Mote Marine Lab and Dynasty Marine Associates to catch the fish. Rescued fish will be taken to the groups’ facilities while FWC officials continue to investigate what’s causing other species to become sick.