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ESR 53:97-113 (2024)  -  DOI:

A rapid assessment of the status of sawfishes in the Philippines

Ruth H. Leeney1,6,*, Alexanra Bagarinao-Regalado2, Diana Verdote3,4, Carla Drury Salgado5

1Protect Africa’s Sawfishes, Walvis Bay, Namibia
2Oceanbio laboratory, Division of Biological Sciences, CAS, University of the Philippines Visayas, Miagao, Iloilo 5023, Philippines, Paseo del Mar, Pangdan, Jagna, Bohol 6308, Philippines
4Large Marine Vertebrate Foundation, Tejero, Jagna, Bohol 6308, Philippines
5Hort de la Bomba, Barcelona 08001, Spain
6Present address: Namibia’s Rays and Sharks Project, Namibia Nature Foundation, 6 Hidipo Hamutenya Street, Swakopmund, Namibia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Globally, sawfishes are amongst the most threatened of all sharks and rays, but a paucity of current data on their presence and status has limited conservation action in many countries. Whilst 2 sawfish species, Pristis pristis and P. zijsron, were historically present in the Philippines, a lack of recent reports suggests that they may have become extremely rare. To determine the current status of sawfishes in the Philippines, interviews were conducted with 106 fishers, fish brokers and fisheries officers at 31 sites in 2016. Interviewees confirmed that sawfishes had inhabited Laguna de Bay and the Agusan and Cagayan Rivers in the past, but the majority of interviewees had last seen a sawfish several decades ago. The most recent observations of a sawfish reported during interviews were in 2014, at the estuary of the Tamontaka River, Mindanao, and at Mercedes fish port, Bicol. After the study, photographic evidence of the landing in 2015 of a largetooth sawfish in Zamboanga Peninsula was published on social media. The considerable degradation and modification of freshwater ecosystems, mangrove loss, coastal degradation, fishing pressure and widespread bottom trawling since the 1940s have all likely contributed to sawfish declines. This study confirms that sawfishes, previously abundant in the Philippines, are now extremely rare or locally extinct. Bottlenose wedgefish Rhynchobatus australiae were observed at Mercedes port during the study and interviewees stated that they are landed regularly. Given the Critically Endangered status of this species, this fishery likely needs immediate management.

KEY WORDS: Endangered species · Fishers’ ecological knowledge · Largetooth sawfish · Green sawfish · Bottom trawling · Laguna de Bay · Rhynchobatus australiae

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Cite this article as: Leeney RH, Bagarinao-Regalado A, Verdote D, Drury Salgado C (2024) A rapid assessment of the status of sawfishes in the Philippines. Endang Species Res 53:97-113.

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