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ESR 46:147-160 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01150

Bright spots for research and conservation of the largetooth sawfish Pristis pristis in Colombia and Panamá

Juliana López-Angarita1,*, Juan Camilo Cubillos-M.1,2, Melany Villate-Moreno1,3, Annissamyd Del Cid4, Juan M. Díaz5, Richard Cooke6,7, E. Fernando Cagua8, Alexander Tilley1,8,9

1Fundación Talking Oceans, KR 16-127 61, Bogotá 110121, Colombia
2Ecological Genomics Group, Institute of Biology and Environmental Sciences, University of Oldenburg, 26129 Oldenburg, Germany
3Biology II, Aquatic Ecology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, 82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany
4Fundación MarViva, Clayton, Ciudad del Saber, Calle Gustavo Lara Casa 145-5, Ciudad de Panamá, Panamá
5Fundación MarViva, KR 45A-93 71, Bogotá 111211, Colombia
6Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, PO Box 0843-03092, Panamá City, Panamá
7Sistema Nacional de Investigadores, Edificio 205 Ciudad del Saber, Calle Luis Bonilla, Ciudad de Panamá, Panamá
8WorldFish, Batu Maung, 11960 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
9Department of Chemical, Pharmaceutical and Agricultural Sciences (DOCPAS), University of Ferrara, Via Luigi Borsari, 44121 Ferrara, Italy
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Sawfishes are considered one of the most endangered families of fishes globally. Their diadromous ecology and vulnerability to fishing nets have brought most populations to the brink of collapse. Conservation of surviving populations is hindered by limited knowledge of historic and contemporary distribution. Colombia and Panamá are 2 of 22 countries considered as high priority for the development of species-specific national legal protection of the Critically Endangered largetooth sawfish Pristis pristis. To construct a baseline for the temporal and spatial distribution of the largetooth sawfish in Colombia and Panamá, we collected historical records from museum databases and literature over the past century, analysed available small-scale fisheries landings databases, and conducted interviews with fishers in 38 locations. We found 248 records of sawfish occurrences across both countries between 1896 and 2015, with 69% of the records from before 2000. The declining frequency of observations was corroborated by fishers, who reported fewer sawfish sightings and catches over the last 20 yr. Results from a regression model of total length and observed date suggest that the maximum size of observed sawfish individuals has also declined over time. We use location data from sawfish records to identify potential ‘bright spots’ that may foster remaining populations of sawfish. The locations of sawfish records were broadly characterised as remote areas with high mangrove forest cover. Given the length and cultural diversity of the Pacific coastlines of Colombia and Panamá, our findings provide important guidance to implement rapid conservation and fisheries interventions in these priority areas and highlight geographical gaps in knowledge for further work.


KEY WORDS: Pristidae · Elasmobranchs · Small-scale fisheries · Historical ecology · Biological collections · Archaeozoology · Mangroves · Traditional knowledge


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Cite this article as: López-Angarita J, Cubillos-M JC, Villate-Moreno M, Del Cid A and others (2021) Bright spots for research and conservation of the largetooth sawfish Pristis pristis in Colombia and Panamá. Endang Species Res 46:147-160. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01150

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