10 May 2023

Sawfish search uncovers rare juvenile near Running Creek

| Samuel Davis
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Sharks and Rays Australia spent 12 days with Lama Lama custodians searching for sawfish in Cape York.

THE search for an endangered green sawfish in the Cape has finally ended with a juvenile found in central Cape York.

The bottom-dweller reared its rostrum at Running Creek during a 12-day expedition with Lama Lama Traditional Owners last month.

Sharks and Rays Australia’s Dr Barbara Wueringer said she was relieved to see the 1.7-metre freshwater fish after a recent trip failed to find any sawfish in the western Cape.

“It’s special because when you work with endangered species, spotting something is few and far between,” she said of the creek sighting, not too far from Princess Charlotte Bay.

“If you catch something that keeps you motivated.

“It’s the first time we’ve collected a DNA sample from a sawfish from the east coast.

“It’s also the first sawfish I’ve seen alive on the east coast. We’ve also had sightings in the area from rangers and campers.”

Green sawfish, which can reach more than seven metres in length, are commonly found in shallow waters like river mouths, embankments, sandy beaches and estuaries.

“They take 10 years to become sexually mature,” Dr Wueringer said.

“We were handlining for the animals and were super excited when we spotted one.

“We may have seen a second animal, too.”

Once considered a stronghold for sawfish internationally, researchers are concerned numbers of sawfish in northern Australia may be dwindling.

Dr Wueringer will give a presentation in Spain this month on the status of Queensland sawfish at the Sharks International conference.

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