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ESR prepress abstract   -  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-Vargas*, M. Espinoza

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Critically Endangered largetooth sawfish Pristis pristis is one of the most threatened elasmobranch species, and currently thought to be locally extinct in at least 27 countries. Although largetooth sawfish information in Central America is scarce, recent records show it 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 their 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 gears such as gill/seine nets and hook and line. Most sawfish captured by gill/seine 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 their populations locally and in the Central American region.