WASHINGTON (CN) – Degradation of the largetooth sawfish’s estuarine habitat by coastal development is so severe that the National Marine Fisheries Service is listing the largetooth as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
In addition to the threat posed by loss of habitat, the species also is imperiled by targeted fishing and incidental by-catch.
Sawfish get their name from their “saws” long, flat snouts edged with pairs of teeth used to kill prey. Their diet includes mostly fish and crustaceans. The sawfish is ovoviviparous, meaning the mother holds the eggs inside of her until the young are ready to be born, usually in litters of 10 to 13 pups.
The largetooth sawfish can grow up to 21 feet long, can weigh 1,323 pounds and can live up to 30 years. However, the average life span is only 10 years, and the largetooth sawfish, which was once prevalent in almost all tropical or subtropical waters, now is found only in limited areas around the Gulf of Mexico.
In some cultures it is believed that tea made from the saws is a cure for asthma, and the meat has been sold in the Asian “shark fin” trade. The saws also are valued as wall trophies, and individual teeth are crafted into spurs for cockfighting.
Because the species does not mature reproductively until its sixth or seventh year, it has a hard time recovering when its stocks are depleted.The agency did not propose critical habitat for the largetooth sawfish because there are no known populations of the species within the borders of the United States.