Very little is known about this spectacular fish, so scientists at FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute initiated a research program to learn more.
Credit: Illustration by Sarah Erickson
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
Smalltooth sawfish, Pristis pectinata, are unique fish that have a long, hedge trimmer-like "saw" extending out from their heads. Although they swim like sharks, they are more closely related to stingrays because they have gill slits under their bodies rather than on the sides of their bodies. Sawfish are born at about 2-feet long and can grow up to 18-feet.
Historically, sawfish were a common sight off Florida's coastline. However, they have become less common during the last century because they were unintentionally overfished. Their long saws, referred to scientifically as "rostrums" or "rostra", were easily entangled in any kind of fishing gear. Sawfish rostrums have also been popular trophy items. Since these fish produce few young, it has been a challenge for their population to recover after being depleted. As a result, sawfish have been protected in Florida since 1992 and the smalltooth sawfish is currently listed as endangered under the United States Endangered Species Act. They should be released unharmed if accidentally caught while fishing for other species. It is important to note that sawfish rostrums should never be removed.
Very little is known about this spectacular fish, so scientists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) initiated a research program to learn more. They are asking for help from the public via the Sawfish Survey. This statewide survey provides a means for anglers, boaters, and beach-goers to help biologists learn more about the areas in which sawfish are sighted. If you catch a sawfish while fishing for other species or happen to see one while you are near the water, please contact us.
To report a sawfish sighting:
To file a report of a sawfish sighting or encounter, please include the date and time of the encounter, the location, the estimated length of each sawfish, the water depth, and any other relevant details.
Thank you for sharing your information with us and supporting our research efforts!
Important Contact Numbers