WASHINGTON (CN) – Five species of smalltooth sawfishes may need protection due to high demand for their body parts, rostra and teeth for traditional medicines, folk art and the manufacture of barbs for cockfighting, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The agency found that a petition to list the sawfishes as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act presents sufficient evidence to warrant a 12-month status review.
The sale of parts from most species of sawfishes is already prohibited by the Endangered Species Act, the Convention in Trade on Endangered Species and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
According to the petition submitted by the conservation group WildEarth Guardians, trade in the smaller, less valuable sawfishes has expanded as the supply of the larger species has collapsed. The petition listed six species of sawfishes, but the one species endemic to the United States, Pristis pectinata, was listed under the Act in 2003, so the agency will not review its status.
Sawfishes, which are actually members of the ray family, are extremely long lived, reach sexual maturity relatively late in their life cycle and have a very low fertility rate, making it difficult for their numbers to rebuild even where they are protected.
The agency states that after the 12-month status review, it will issue a finding that listing under the act is either unwarranted, warranted or warranted but precluded by higher priority listings.