Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Endangered Species Act Five-year Review and Recovery Plan Updates for US Smalltooth Sawfish, Pristis pectinata.

By Tonya Wiley-Lescher (Haven Worth Consulting)

The United States distinct population segment (DPS) of Smalltooth Sawfish (Pristis pectinata) was classified as Endangered under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2003. Recently I was contracted by NOAA Fisheries (National Marine Fisheries Service) to draft two key documents regarding the US population of Smalltooth Sawfish. 

The first document is an ESA 5-year review. To monitor recovery efforts and ongoing threats to the species, the ESA requires the status of the species be assessed through regular 5-year reviews. A 5-year review is an analysis conducted to determine if the current listing classification under the ESA is still accurate. The first review was completed in 2010 and, based on criteria established in the recovery plan, determined the species still warranted protections afforded by an Endangered classification. Our scientific knowledge of the species has grown considerably since then. So I am compiling all we have learned about this species of sawfish in the US, to determine if any recovery goals have been met. The second ESA 5-year review will, again, determine if the listing classification of Endangered under the ESA is still appropriate.

The second document is an updated Recovery Plan. A recovery plan for the US DPS of Smalltooth Sawfish was published in 2009 detailing goals and actions necessary to meet identified recovery criteria. Recovery plans serve as road maps for species recovery - they lay out where we need to go and how best to get there. Changes to the recovery plan, including revised recovery goals and criteria, are also underway. Updating the plan, and the recovery criteria it contains, will help scientists and managers work toward restoring the sawfish population in the US to the point where it is a secure part of its ecosystem and protections under the ESA are no longer needed. The US Smalltooth Sawfish Implementation Team will meet in April 2016 to finalize the updated plan and submit it to NOAA Fisheries to be reviewed and published. 
Tonya releasing a Smalltooth Sawfish pup.

To ensure these documents are based on the best available scientific and commercial data, public comments regarding US Smalltooth Sawfish can be submitted until March 22, 2016. I will be presenting the results of the second 5-year review and the updated recovery plan at the Biology and Ecology of Sawfishes symposium at the American Elasmobranch Society meeting in New Orleans this July. 

For more information on smalltooth sawfish, the Endangered Species Act, and US recovery efforts visit http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/protected_resources/sawfish/index.html

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