Mote Scientists to Help eBay Identify Species in New Sawfish Ban

eBay announced ban on smalltooth sawfish sales on Monday

eBay officials have banned the trade of smalltooth sawfish parts from its online auction sites, and scientific experts at Mote Marine Laboratory, the Ocean Conservancy and other agencies will help them identify questionable species.

This is a really important step for eBay to take because reducing the sale of smalltooth sawfish is one way to help the species recover, said Dr. Colin Simpfendorfer, manager of the Elasmobranch Fisheries & Conservation Biology program in Motes Center for Shark Research. Mote and other members of the Sawfish Recovery Team have been encouraging eBay to take this step and we applaud the fact that they did. Not only will this help reduce sales of the species, but it could help raise public awareness about the animals dwindling numbers in the U.S.

Staff Biologist Tonya Wiley releases a juvenile sawfish fitted with a satellite tracking tag in the Everglades National Park.[more sawfish photos]

Mote scientists, who have been studying the species since 1999, played a critical role in providing the data that helped the Ocean Conservancy petition federal officials to get the smalltooth sawfish listed as an endangered species. Smalltooth sawfish have been protected since 2003, making it illegal to harm or engage in interstate commerce of the species.

Historically, smalltooth sawfish ranged from New York to Texas. Today they are found primarily in the protected areas of Everglades National Park and the Ten Thousand Islands. Theyre regularly encountered from Charlotte Harbor to the Florida Keys and occasionally as far north as the panhandle and Georgia and as far south as Cuba. Since Mote began collecting data on smalltooth sawfish in 1999, the Center for Shark Research has received over 730 sighting reports from the public. Mote scientists also actively tag sawfish to study their growth, movement patterns, habitat use and behavior.

Theres still a lot we need to learn about sawfish, said Tonya Wiley, Staff Biologist of the Sawfish Conservation Biology Program. So far, what we have found is that natural areas places without a lot of coastal development are important sawfish habitats. But we still dont yet know for sure how many young they have at a time, how often they reproduce or how long they live. By getting sightings from the general public, and tagging animals, we hope to be able to answer some of these questions that are crucial to the species survival.

In 2005, Mote scientists tagged both their largest and their smallest smalltooth sawfish. The largest was just over 16 feet and the smallest was 29 inches. Its critical to know the most important habitats for this species and how these animals use different areas if they are to ever recover, Simpfendorfer said. And eBays changes will hopefully raise public awareness on a number of levels, letting more people know how they can help sawfish.

Release It and Report It

Mote Marine Laboratory collects data about smalltooth sawfish. If you catch a sawfish or see one, please report it at 800-691-6683 (800-691-MOTE) or e-mail sawfish@mote.org. Please include:

  • Name and contact information
  • Date, time and location of encounter (include GPS coordinates if possible)
  • Approximate sawfish size
  • What you were doing when you saw it (fishing, diving, snorkeling, etc.)
  • Photos or video

It is illegal to harm sawfish in any way.

Tonya Renee Wiley
Staff Biologist
Mote Marine Laboratory
Center for Shark Research
Sawfish Conservation Biology Project

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