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Large-Scale Space Use of Large Juvenile and Adult Smalltooth Sawfish Pristis Pectinata: Implications for Management

February 01, 2021

Use of passive acoustic telemetry to track movements of juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish.

The smalltooth sawfish Pristis pectinata is an endangered species endemic to the Atlantic Ocean. The only known viable populations occur in the U.S.A. along both coasts of Florida and in the western Bahamas. Little is known about habitat use and movement ecology of large juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish. Although Critical Habitat — a management designation in the U.S.A. — has been identified for small juveniles, it has yet to be identified for these life stages. Between May 2016 and April 2019, we used passive acoustic telemetry and 3 large data sharing networks of receivers to track movements of 43 large juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish. During this study, 24 females and 19 males were implanted with transmitters with estimated 4 or 10 year battery lives. These tagged individuals were detected off the southeastern U.S.A. on 461 receivers ranging from off the coast of Brunswick, Georgia, to the lower Florida Keys, and along the Gulf coast to Apalachee Bay, Florida. Seasonal migrations were undertaken by 58% (43% mature; 57% immature) of the tagged individuals, with the remainder being apparent residents of their tagging locations. Tagged sawfish from both size classes and of both sexes migrated, which indicates that neither sex nor length is a predictor of whether a sawfish will migrate or not. Although both coasts of Florida were used for migration, most individuals consistently used the same coast when they migrated. The areas surrounding Boca Grande, Cape Canaveral, and the lower Florida Keys were heavily visited sites that could be further evaluated as potential Critical Habitat for these life stages. Understanding the movement patterns of this Critically Endangered species is essential for creating policies to protect areas important for promoting growth of the population.


Graham J, Kroetz AM, Poulakis GR, Scharer RM and others (2021) Large-scale space use of large juvenile and adult smalltooth sawfish Pristis pectinata: implications for management. Endang Species Res 44:45-59. DOI:10.3354/esr01088

Last updated by Southeast Fisheries Science Center on 02/01/2021

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