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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 40:231-242 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00992

A beacon of hope: distribution and current status of the largetooth sawfish in Costa Rica

J. A. Valerio-Vargas1,3,*, M. Espinoza1,2

1Centro de Investigacíon en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR), Universidad de Costa Rica, 2060, San José, Costa Rica
2Escuela de Biología, Universidad de Costa Rica, 2060, San José, Costa Rica
3Sistema de Estudios de Posgrado en Biología, Universidad de Costa Rica, 2060, San José, Costa Rica
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Critically Endangered largetooth sawfish Pristis pristis is one of the most threatened elasmobranch species and is currently thought to be locally extinct in at least 27 countries. Although largetooth sawfish information in Central America is scarce, recent records show that this species is still present in Costa Rica, yet its distribution and current status remain unclear. This study investigated the spatial and temporal distribution of the largetooth sawfish in Costa Rica and identified local threats affecting the populations. We conducted 275 structured interviews in coastal and riverine communities across the country, which resulted in 134 confirmed records in the Pacific, 1 in the Caribbean and 51 in the northern region. Historical and recent records suggest the largetooth sawfish has undergone significant reductions in abundance and distribution from coastal and riverine areas, mainly due to interaction with fishing gear such as gill nets and hook and line. Most sawfish captured by gill nets were reported in the Central Pacific region, whereas hook and line records were more common in the northern region and the South Pacific. Although largetooth sawfish populations in Costa Rica have followed the global decline trend, we found 2 main hotspots where recent sightings and captures appear to be more common, suggesting there is still hope for the species to recover in Costa Rica and possibly in the region. Moreover, Costa Rica recently became the 17th country to ratify national legal protection for sawfishes, which may strengthen conservation efforts to protect populations locally and in the Central American region.


KEY WORDS: Pristis pristis · Maps · Hotspots · Central America · Legal protection · Interviews


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Cite this article as: Valerio-Vargas JA, Espinoza M (2019) A beacon of hope: distribution and current status of the largetooth sawfish in Costa Rica. Endang Species Res 40:231-242. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00992

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