6 critically endangered sawfish found dead along Collier County road

Writer: Derrick Shaw
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is conducting an investigation involving the deaths of six critically endangered smalltooth sawfish in Everglades City. (Credit: NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement)

An investigation is underway after six critically endangered smalltooth sawfish were found dead alongside a road in Collier County.

An employee with Everglades National Park reported the dead sawfish and two dead bonnethead sharks to NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement. The animals were found along the causeway between Everglades City and Chokoloskee Island.

Investigators say two of the sawfish are missing their rostra (saws). Another had its meat removed, leaving only the carcass.

A sawfish biologist from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will perform a necropsy on the animals to try to determine the cause of death.

Smalltooth sawfish are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. They were once found in the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to Florida and along the East Coast from Florida to North Carolina. Their distribution has decreased greatly in U.S. waters over the past century. Today, the species is generally only found off the coast of Florida, especially Southwest Florida where sawfish give birth. They reproduce every other year and give birth to just 7 to 14 young. The loss of these six animals is nearly equivalent to one mother’s entire litter.

NOAA officials are offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to a criminal conviction or the assessment of a civil penalty in this case. Call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964 if you have information. Tips may be left anonymously.

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