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ESR 44:45-59 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01088

Large-scale space use of large juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish Pristis pectinata: implications for management

Jasmin Graham1,*, Andrea M. Kroetz2, Gregg R. Poulakis3, Rachel M. Scharer3, John K. Carlson4, Susan Lowerre-Barbieri5,6, Danielle Morley7, Eric A. Reyier8, R. Dean Grubbs1

1Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory, St. Teresa, Florida 32358, USA
2Riverside Technology, Inc. for NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Panama City, Florida 32408, USA
3Charlotte Harbor Field Laboratory, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Port Charlotte, Florida 33954, USA
4NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Panama City, Florida 32408, USA
5Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program, University of Florida, 7922 NW 71st Street, Gainesville, Florida 32653, USA
6Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA
7South Florida Regional Laboratory, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Marathon, Florida 33050, USA
8Herndon Solutions Group, LLC, NASA Environmental and Medical Contract, Kennedy Space Center, Florida 32899, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The smalltooth sawfish Pristis pectinata is an endangered species endemic to the Atlantic Ocean. The only known viable populations occur in the USA along both coasts of Florida and in the western Bahamas. Little is known about habitat use and movement ecology of large juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish. Although Critical Habitat—a management designation in the USA—has been identified for small juveniles, it has yet to be identified for these life stages. Between May 2016 and April 2019, we used passive acoustic telemetry and 3 large data sharing networks of receivers to track movements of 43 large juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish. During this study, 24 females and 19 males were implanted with transmitters with estimated 4 or 10 yr battery lives. These tagged individuals were detected off the southeastern USA on 461 receivers ranging from off the coast of Brunswick, Georgia, to the lower Florida Keys, and along the Gulf coast to Apalachee Bay, Florida. Seasonal migrations were undertaken by 58% (43% mature; 57% immature) of the tagged individuals, with the remainder being apparent residents of their tagging locations. Tagged sawfish from both size classes and of both sexes migrated, which indicates that neither sex nor length is a predictor of whether a sawfish will migrate or not. Although both coasts of Florida were used for migration, most individuals consistently used the same coast when they migrated. The areas surrounding Boca Grande, Cape Canaveral, and the lower Florida Keys were heavily visited sites that could be further evaluated as potential Critical Habitat for these life stages. Understanding the movement patterns of this Critically Endangered species is essential for creating policies to protect areas important for promoting growth of the population.


KEY WORDS: Pristis pectinata · Habitat use · Acoustic monitoring · Endangered species · Conservation · Management


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Cite this article as: Graham J, Kroetz AM, Poulakis GR, Scharer RM and others (2021) Large-scale space use of large juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish Pristis pectinata: implications for management. Endang Species Res 44:45-59. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01088

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