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  • Olga Koubrak

Caribbean Countries Advance Proposal to Protect Endangered Sawfish

Government Scientists Unanimously Endorse Dutch Initiative to List Largetooth Sawfish as Protected Species under Cartagena Convention

Credit: National Aquarium

Press Release

December 7, 2018. Panama City, Panama. The critically endangered largetooth sawfish gained a lifeline this week as the Scientific Committee for a key Caribbean agreement endorsed an initiative aimed at increasing protections in the region. Government representatives have unanimously supported a proposal from the Netherlands to list the largetooth sawfish (Pristis pristis) under the Cartagena Convention’s Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) Protocol Annex II. The Committee’s endorsement is an essential step on the way to consideration at the full SPAW conference in March. Listing would bring obligations for the 17 Contracting Parties to establish strict national protections and cooperative regional initiatives for the species.

“Sawfish are among the world’s most endangered marine species and warrant strict legal protections wherever they remain,” said Olga Koubrak, legal advisor for Sealife Law who spoke at the Committee meeting in favor of the listing proposal. “We are pleased that governments of the Caribbean have followed the lead of the Netherlands and taken this important step toward protecting the largetooth sawfish from local extinction.”

All five sawfish species around the world are classified as Endangered or Critically Endangered under the IUCN Red List. Largetooth and smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) were once common in the Caribbean, but overfishing and habitat loss have since severely depleted their populations. The smalltooth sawfish was added to SPAW Annex II in 2017.

“Time is running out for many sawfish populations around the world,” said Sonja Fordham, president of Shark Advocates International. “We are hopeful that this expert endorsement will spark new sawfish protections throughout the Caribbean and inspire similar action in other regions -- before it’s too late.”

Earlier this week, experts announced that the largetooth sawfish topped the global list of Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) shark and ray species with the highest score of all vertebrates assessed to date.

Media contact: Liz Morley, +1 843 693 5044 Sealife Law (SL) brings legal information and education to ocean conservation. Shark Advocates International (SAI) is dedicated to securing science-based policies for sharks and rays. Havenworth Coastal Conservation (HCC) works to conserve coastal ecosystems through science and outreach. SL, SAI, and HCC have joined with marine scientists from CubaMar and Florida State University to form the Initiative to Save Caribbean Sawfish (ISCS) with funding from the Shark Conservation Fund. SAI, HCC, and CubaMar are projects of The Ocean Foundation.

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