For Immediate Release, October 22, 2020

Contact:

Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190, jlopez@biologicaldiversity.org

Reward Increased to $25,000 for Info on Killings of Six Endangered Florida Sawfish

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The Center for Biological Diversity today increased to $25,000 the reward for information leading to a conviction for the illegal killing of six critically endangered smalltooth sawfish in Everglades City, Florida.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Law Enforcement announced a $20,000 reward today; the Center is boosting the amount by $5,000. According to the agency, two of the fish had their rostra, or saws, removed, while another had been stripped of its meat. Their carcasses, plus those of two bonnethead sharks, were found strewn along the causeway between Everglades City and Chokoloskee Island.

“It’s depraved and disgusting that someone would defile beautiful creatures like smalltooth sawfish and bonneted sharks. It’s also illegal,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Someone knows what went down here, and we’re hoping the cash reward will encourage that someone to step forward and do the right thing.”

Anyone with information should call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously.

Protected under the Endangered Species Act since 2003, smalltooth sawfish resemble sharks in appearance but are actually large, bottom-dwelling rays. Their name refers to their long, saw-like bill, which is full of razor-sharp teeth. The smalltooth sawfish can use its jagged snout to great advantage to sense and capture prey.

Its bill makes it especially prone to capture in fishermen's nets. It’s also killed for its saw, which is sold and traded illegally, and the fish and its habitat are vulnerable to Lake Okeechobee discharges.

Once numerous in all U.S. tropical waters from the Carolinas to Texas, the species has now been reduced to an estimated 5% of its former range and population and now occurs in only a few spots in Florida.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.