HomeOutdoorsNewsCritically endangered sawfish killed by suspected trophy hunters

Critically endangered sawfish killed by suspected trophy hunters

by Caitlin Berard
Critically endangered sawfish
(Photo by izanbar via Getty Images)

Fisheries authorities in Australia are currently investigating the “cruel” killing of four critically endangered sawfish. Sadly, each was found with its saw-like rostrums missing, leading officials to believe it was the work of trophy hunters.

The butchered fish were found at Cleaverville Creek on Friday, around 900 miles from Perth, Australia. As reported by the Department of Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), the sawfish were first spotted by a member of the public, who then notified authorities.

Traveling to the scene, officials confirmed the deaths of the four fish, took tissue samples, and launched an investigation into the incident.

All five species of sawfish are endangered, with 3 listed as critically endangered. In fact, they’re the most threatened shark or ray in the world. Harming any of them is a crime, as all five are protected.

These specific fish, however, were likely green sawfish, according to aquatic ecosystems expert at Murdoch University David Morgan. The researcher added that sawfish rostrums are often removed as a trophy, despite the fact that doing so is an illegal act.

“It’s a real shame that these four animals were killed just for a trophy,” he told ABC. “Not only is it illegal, but it’s cruel. Someone just wants to stick it on their wall. They’re like elephant tusks and rhino horns.”

Should officials catch the fisherman responsible, that person could face fines totaling $25,000, assuming the same person mangled all four fish.

Poaching and habitat destruction decimated sawfish populations

Despite their appearance and alternative name, carpenter sharks, sawfish aren’t sharks at all but a type of ray.

Without question, sharks and rays are among the most captivating creatures under the sea. Green sawfish, however, still stand out as a particularly interesting species.

The largest of all existing sawfish, the green sawfish is absolutely enormous at 15 feet long, 770 pounds on average. Their rostrum alone can reach upwards of 5 feet in length!

Unfortunately, this magnificent species is under severe threat of extinction due to a mixture of poaching and habitat loss. Experts believe their populations have seen an 80 percent decline over the past three generations alone.

A once abundant species is now scarce, with northern WA as one of the last strongholds for the fish. It’s this particular detail that sawfish expert David Morgan finds most disappointing.

Conservationists such as himself have spent the last several years raising awareness about the endangered species. But just when he thought they were making headway, four sawfish carcasses appeared on the local beach, apparently killed for their saws.

“I was hoping we’d woken up to the fact that we are housing these critically endangered species,” he said. “They are an iconic species. People should really put a big sign up saying: ‘Welcome to sawfish country.'”