Dr Wueringer holds the head of the saw-less freshwater sawfish (Pristis pristis).  The saw was likely amputated by a fisher who took it as a trophy. Internationally, the trade of sawfish body parts is protected under CITES, which also protects for example the ivory of elephants. 

    Photo Credit: Ashley Dew

    Dr Wueringer with the sawfish. 

    Photo Credit: Ashley Dew

    The brain of the sawfish sits between the eyes and spiracles (the first gill slit which is located just behind the eyes). Amputating the sawfishes’ saw creates an opening in the braincase to the environment. The procedure likely kills most sawfish.  

    Photo Credit: Bill Payne

    The sawless freshwater sawfish was female and measured 2m 10 cm in length. Females of this species reach sexual maturity in Queensland waters at around 2.4 – 3m total length (including the saw), which equates to about 8-10 years of age. This female is unlikely to produce, as she is very emaciated, indicating that she cannot feed without the saw. 

    Photo Credit: Bill Payne

    After measuring, tagging, and DNA sampling, the female sawfish is quickly released and swims away. She then rests in the shallows of a sidearm of the Mitchell River. The yellow dart tag is visible right below the first dorsal fin. 

    Photo Credit: Ashley Dew

    One of the measurements that the scientists take is the width of the base of the saw. 

    Photo Credit: Sam Lewis

    This juvenile freshwater sawfish was likely born this year. On the underside of its head its nostrils and jaws are visible.  

    Photo Credit: Sam Lewis

Gallery: The endangered sawfish

By AG STAFF | August 22, 2017

Sharks and Rays Australia has been conducting research surveys across river systems adjacent to Queensland’s Gulf of Carpentaria aiming to find and count sawfish. In Australia, there are four species of sawfish. Three of those are listed as vulnerable and migratory on Australia’s EPBC Act, while the fourth species is listed as migratory. Freshwater (or largetooth) sawfish (Pristis pristis) are critically endangered globally and in Australia they are protected under state legislation in Qld, NT and WA, additional to their EPBC Act listing. Dr Barbara Wueringer, the principal scientist of Sharks And Rays Australia, has been working with sawfish since 2006. As her previous work focused on how sawfish use their saw to both sense and manipulate prey, she finds the practice of amputating a sawfishes saw particularly troubling. The practice is also illegal.