Marine Matters
Smalltooth Sawfish: The USA's First Endangered Elasmobranch?

Colin A. Simpfendorfer
Center for Shark Research, Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL 34236; (941) 388-4441


The smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) population in US waters has declined dramatically over
the past century, and today it occurs in only a small fraction of its former range. For the most part,
the decline in the population went unnoticed until scientists began raising concerns in the early
1990s. The population decline is attributed to fishing (both commercial and recreational), habitat
modification, and sawfish life history. In response to concerns about the sawfish population the
National Marine Fisheries Service has been evaluating its status and whether it should be listed on
the Endangered Species List. With its listing in 2002, the smalltooth sawfish would become the first
elasmobranch on the US Endangered Species List.