ESR 32:265-275 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00805

Is this the last stand of the Critically Endangered green sawfish Pristis zijsron in the Arabian Gulf?

Rima W. Jabado*, Reem A. Al Baharna, Sultan R. Al Ali, Khalfan O. Al Suwaidi, Ayesha Y. Al Blooshi, Shaikha S. Al Dhaheri

Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector, Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The sawfishes (Pristidae) represent one of the most threatened groups of marine fish around the world. Between October 2015 and June 2016, interviews (n = 82) were conducted to assess the occurrence of sawfish in United Arab Emirates waters and gain insight from fishers’ traditional ecological knowledge regarding the status, uses, and cultural significance of sawfish. Almost all respondents (95.1%) had previously seen a sawfish, and 92.6% confirmed that their numbers had declined in the last 20 yr. Most respondents reported encounters in the last 5 to 10 yr, with 18.3% (n = 15) having seen a sawfish in the last 2 yr. Sawfish were not perceived as a culturally significant resource (76.8%) and when caught were primarily used as food, their high-value fins sold to traders, and rostra retained as decorations. The consensus was that while sawfish were previously targeted, they are now caught primarily as bycatch in gill nets. Based on pictures and rostra encountered (n = 19), it appears that the green sawfish Pristis zijsron is more common in United Arab Emirates waters than the narrow sawfish Anoxypristis cuspidata, which is likely to be present off the Ras Al Khaimah coast. While the results of this study provide evidence of a large decline in sawfish, they hint at the possible importance of Abu Dhabi waters as a region where sawfish are still encountered and where research and monitoring, as well as conservation and recovery efforts, should be focused to avoid local extinction and recover their populations.


KEY WORDS: United Arab Emirates · Fishermen · Interviews · Pristidae · Conservation · Traditional ecological knowledge


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Cite this article as: Jabado RW, Al Baharna RA, Al Ali SR, Al Suwaidi KO, Al Blooshi AY, Al Dhaheri SS (2017) Is this the last stand of the Critically Endangered green sawfish Pristis zijsron in the Arabian Gulf?. Endang Species Res 32:265-275. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00805

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