Baylor Rodman was on vacation recently with his family for his annual visit with his grandparents, Ed and Marianne Valvano. Baylor went out for a day of fishing and fun on the water with his father. They were off Coconut Island near Hideaway Beach when he caught something. As he reeled in the catch, passer-by’s were in awe of the catch, a 5-foot sawfish! They immediately took a photo and released the fish. “We knew the fish was rare, but didn’t know who to contact,” said Baylor’s father. Ed Valvano contacted Coastal Breeze New who subsequently reported the rare event to the appropriate agency.
While they swim much like sharks, sawfish are actually a species of ray. There are seven species, however many have died out. They can easily reach 16.4 ft. in length. Sawfish are able to breath while lying on the ocean floor by drawing water into their gills through large holes behind each eye, called spiracles. Their most distinctive feature is their long flat rostrum – “saw” – that is lined with rostral teeth along the margins. These “teeth” are set deeply in hard cartilage and do not grow back if the root becomes damaged. Unprovokedthey’re considered a docile species preferring shallow waters near shore, and estuaries. They use their saws to stun prey in schooling fish by moving their heads in a slashing motion side to side, or in order to dislodge food from the sand.
Two types of sawfish, the smalltooth sawfish and the large tooth sawfish can be found in Florida waters. The smalltooth sawfish has between 23-34 teeth while the largetooth has between 14-21. The smalltooth sawfish has been a protected species in Florida waters since 1992, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History. The largetooth sawfish was turned down for this status due to lack of information. Through combined efforts through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Florida Program for Shark Research, new information on the largetooth sawfish and its status in Gulf waters, was gathered. With this new information, the largetooth sawfish was added to the Endangered Species Act as of July 21, 2011 and are considered Critically Endangered.
If you see a sawfish, please report it to:
• Online at www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/ sharks/sawfish.
• By phone: (352) 392-2360 or (352) 871-8230.
• By e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hats off to Baylor for a memorable vacation! Let Coastal Breeze News know if you come across something unusual and interesting!