Call for in­for­ma­tion on rare saw­fish

Melville Times - - NEWS - Jon Bas­sett

A COL­LAB­O­RA­TION of Mur­doch Univer­sity, Queens­land and Scot­land­based fish re­searchers want ev­i­dence of the in­creas­ingly rare saw­fish that was once a prized species from Perth to Syd­ney.

“We want to hear about your sight­ings: a live fish, a saw on the wall of your lo­cal pub, or a photo from your fam­ily al­bum,” Cairns-based Sharks and Rays Aus­tralia direc­tor Bar­bara Wueringer said.

Saw­fish up to 6m in length have a dis­tinc­tive flat snout up to 2m with jagged teeth that look like a saw, called a ros­trum.

The ros­trum senses elec­tric­ity com­ing from prey fish, but it can be used as a weapon to in­jure tar­gets.

It is thought the saw’s stream­lin­ing makes it hard for prey to de­tect it, but it does en­sure saw­fish get caught in any nets, with re­search in­di­cat­ing recre­ational gill nets are dec­i­mat­ing its pop­u­la­tions.

Old saw­fish saws can be seen in pubs and pri­vate bars as tro­phies from fish caught be­fore pro­tec­tion.

Queens­land re­search in­di­cates some fish­ers still il­le­gally cut off saws be­fore re­leas­ing the an­i­mal to po­ten­tially face a slow death.

“Forty years ago, saw­fish were reg­u­larly seen off Syd­ney and the east coast, and Perth and up the west coast, but to­day they’re rarely seen out­side of the Gulf of Car­pen­taria, North­ern Ter­ri­tory and the Kim­ber­ley,” Dr Wueringer said.

It is sus­pected north­ern wa­ters off WA, the North­ern Ter­ri­tory and Queens­land are the last pop­u­la­tions of four of the five species of saw­fish.

Re­search col­lab­o­ra­tor at Scot­land’s He­riot-Watt Univer­sity, Jes­sica Hud­gins, said the fish were unique to Aus­tralia and a sig­nif­i­cant part of Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture.

Dr Hud­gins said after work­ing with Indige­nous rangers, pub­lic in­for­ma­tion was needed for the species’ sur­vival and a data­base of its his­toric range.

No saw­fish should be tar­geted for cap­ture. Re­port sight­ings and mem­o­ra­bilia to https://saw.fish.

A green saw­fish re­leased after its saw, a quar­ter of its length, held it in a gill net.

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