ESR prepress abstract  -  DOI:

Theme Section: Biology and ecology of sawfishes

Biology and ecology of sawfishes: global status of research and future outlook

Gregg R. Poulakis*, R. Dean Grubbs


ABSTRACT: Globally, sawfishes are threatened with extinction because they occur in coastal habitats, which are disproportionally affected by human activities. In particular, sawfishes are susceptible to myriad fisheries that operate in the same regions. Unfortunately, these well-documented threats can be only partly mitigated because of ongoing human resource needs. However, the outlook for sawfishes is optimistic if we build on 5 successful research and conservation approaches developed over the past 2 decades: (1) local ecological knowledge; (2) identification of nurseries; (3) state-of-the-art techniques; (4) tagging studies; and (5) threat mitigation. If appreciation of healthy ecosystems that contain top predators like sawfishes can be fostered by healthy human populations where sawfishes occur (e.g. ecosystem management, promotion of sustainable livelihoods), and if local knowledge can be used to influence scientific studies that inform customized management decisions, this group of iconic species will have a chance to recover. In addition, promoting sample collection, sample archiving, and collaboration, especially in instances of sawfish mortality, will maximize the knowledge gained despite often limited funding and limited samples. The first 2 decades of the 21st century have seen the first steps taken toward sawfish recovery, but there is more to do. Ultimately, translation of research results into conservation actions that include enforcement and fisher behavior change will be the key to sustained recovery. This Overview provides a context for the Theme Section papers and we incorporate them as part of a mini-review of research on this threatened group to provide a future outlook.