Saturday, October 17, 2015

Become a sawfish researcher for a day!

The Sawfish Conservation Society (SCS) is partnering with researchers from around the world to launch the See A Saw Citizen Science Sawfish Project in order to better understand the highly threatened sawfishes, and you can help!

The See a Saw program and its instructional video can be found at

Sawfish numbers have greatly declined in the last 100 years due to fishing and habitat modification and now these fishes are close to becoming extinct. Sawfishes are often caught accidentally, but sometimes fishers kill these animals or cut off their saws to detangle them from nets/fishing lines or to collect a souvenir of their catch. If a sawfish is released alive after its saw has been removed it is unlikely to survive, as it is depends on its saw for hunting and for protecting itself from predators.

Saws from sawfish can be easily entangled in fishing lines and nets. 

Today, sawfish are protected in a large and increasing number of countries, and it is now illegal to harm sawfish, which includes removing their saw, in these countries. In addition, international trading, and in some countries, domestic trading of removed saws is also illegal.

Although the removal of sawfish saws has negatively impacted sawfish, researchers have discovered how to turn this negative into a positive and can use previously collected saws to gain important information on sawfish, which can then be used to conserve the remaining populations of sawfish. This can be very useful as old sawfish saws are easier to find and work with then live sawfish.

A pile of saws collected from fishers, which are being used to better understand the rare and threatened sawfishes.

Recent research has shown that it is possible to identify the species, size and occasionally the sex of a sawfish from its saw. In addition, researchers are now able to extract  DNA from old sawfish saws, which can be used to gather important information about the genetic health and other aspects of the different sawfish populations.  

Scientists are now taking their research one step further and are looking at regional differences between these saws to see if the measurements and tissue samples from these saws can be used to determine where saws come from and how populations have changed through time.

Please measure, take a photograph (as shown above) and report your old sawfish saw to the SCS.
To do this, researchers need a large number of saws from throughout the world and they have asked us at the SCS to reach out to you to help them with this important and large task. Specifically, researchers are asking for you to measure, photograph and report any sawfish saws that you may have. However, it is important to note that you should not hurt a sawfish to obtain this information, nor should you try to obtain this information from a live sawfish. Data collected from this project will not only benefit the current studies, but will also be made available to future research as well.

The Sea a Saw program webpage
If you are interested in becoming a sawfish scientist for a day, please visit our website ( and follow the links for the “See a Saw” program. On the webpage you will find multiple links that will take you to the instructions on how to take part in this program, the necessary data sheets and other important information. Please make sure to read all instructions and the disclaimer before you measure and/or photograph your saw.

Updates will be posted on the SCS website as this program progresses, so make sure to check back to look for these updates.

We are looking forward to working with you all and appreciate any information you can provide. Thank you for your help in better understanding these incredible and endangered fishes.

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