WASHINGTON (CN) – Following a 12-month status review of the largetooth sawfish, the National Marine Fisheries Service has determined that the fish qualifies as a species under the Endangered Species Act and that endangered status is warranted.
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, according the listing petition from Wildearth Guardians, 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.
The primary threat to the species is the degradation of estuarine habitat by coastal development. The species also is imperiled by targeted fishing and incidental bycatch. 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.
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