Commercial fishery bycatch risk for smalltooth sawfish in Florida

Published on
15 February 2022

Commercial fishery bycatch risk for large juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) in Florida waters

Jasmin Graham, Andrea M. Kroetz, Gregg R. Poulakis, Rachel M. Scharer, John K. Carlson, Susan K. Lowerre-Barbieri, Danielle Morley, Eric A. Reyier, R. Dean Grubbs


  1. Incidental catch of marine species can create ecological and economic issues, particularly for endangered species. The smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) is endemic to the Atlantic Ocean and listed as Endangered in the US Endangered Species Act. One of its major threats is bycatch mortality in commercial fisheries.
  2. Despite the protection afforded by the US Endangered Species Act, smalltooth sawfish are still captured as bycatch in commercial fisheries. Acoustic and satellite tag data collected on 59 sawfish between 2011 and 2019 were analysed to assess commercial fishery bycatch risk for large juveniles and adults off Florida. This study focused on shrimp trawl, south-east coastal gillnet, and shark bottom longline fisheries, as these were identified in the recovery plan as having the greatest potential threats to recovery.
  3. Bycatch risk associated with the shrimp trawl fishery was significantly higher than the other fisheries, indicating that this fishery currently poses the greatest threat to recovery.
  4. Bycatch risk was concentrated in all seasons in the Gulf of Mexico adjacent to the lower Florida Keys for the shrimp trawl fishery, off Cape Canaveral in the south-east coastal gillnet fishery, and in the Atlantic Ocean adjacent to the Florida Keys in the shark bottom longline fishery.
  5. Tagging location and sex were predictors of bycatch risk. Individuals tagged in Charlotte Harbor had the highest shrimp trawl bycatch risk. Females tagged in south Florida tended to reside in the deepest water, which is where shrimp trawl effort is highest. Therefore, females may be at more risk in these deeper waters.
  6. Results from this study indicate a year-round closure of waters off south-west Florida to the shrimp trawl fishery between Charlotte Harbor and the western Florida Keys would reduce sawfish bycatch, and thus mortality, which is in line with recovery plan goals.

Aquatic Conservation, Early View, DOI: 10.1002/aqc.3777


Leave a Reply