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Endangered Sawfish Found Dead Missing its Rostrum in the Florida Keys

February 22, 2024

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement offering reward up to $20,000 for information.

Smalltooth sawfish swims in shallow water. A beached sawfish in shallow water with a cut-off rostrum. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement is conducting an investigation involving the death of an endangered smalltooth sawfish near Key West, Florida. Multiple witnesses reported a sawfish that appeared to be unhealthy and struggling to swim, ultimately beaching itself on a sandbar. OLE officers and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge Officer responding to the scene discovered the sawfish missing its rostrum (saw).

On January 31, 2024, the animal was found along a shallow flat oceanside of Geiger Key, near Key West. Officials believe the rostrum was removed between the evening of January 30 to the morning of January 31. NOAA is asking for any information about the person(s) who caused injury to the sawfish and/or removal of the rostrum.

Map showing location and surrounding area where the dead sawfish was found.
Location and surrounding area where the dead sawfish was found. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.
NOAA OLE encountered a sawfish carcass with cut off rostrum.
NOAA OLE encountered a sawfish carcass with cut off rostrum. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

We are offering a reward up to $20,000 for information leading to a criminal conviction or the assessment of a civil penalty. Call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously, but you must include your name and contact information to be eligible for the reward.

.We are looking for information leading to the: 

  • Successful identification and/or
  • Successful prosecution for the person(s) responsible and/or
  • Arrest, conviction, or civil penalty assessment

Smalltooth sawfish are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Once abundant in the Southeast, they are now only found off the coast of Florida, especially southwest Florida where sawfish give birth. They were the first marine fish to receive federal protection as an endangered species in 2003. Under the Act, it is illegal to catch, harm, harass, or kill an endangered sawfish. It is also unlawful to possess, sell, carry, or transport sawfish or parts of sawfish—such as the rostrum. While some fishermen catch sawfish as bycatch, they can follow safe handling and release guidelines to quickly and safely release incidentally captured sawfish.

Last updated by Office of Law Enforcement on February 22, 2024

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