Species: Green sawfish (Pristis zijsron)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: The green sawfish uses its bizarre saw-like snout to swipe at shoals of fish and to rake crustaceans and molluscs out of the sediment.
A type of ray, the green sawfish is easily recognised by its highly elongated snout, known as a saw. This strange structure bears up to 37 pairs of teeth and is often held upwards at an angle as the fish rests on the ocean floor. The green sawfish is the largest sawfish species, occasionally reaching over seven metres in length. It gives birth to live young, and the saws of the young fish are covered in a gelatinous coating at birth to protect the mother. The green sawfish is found in the Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean, where it inhabits muddy or sandy bottom habitats in inshore areas or the lower parts of rivers.
The main threat to the green sawfish is accidental bycatch in fisheries, with its large size and long saw meaning it easily becomes entangled in nets and is difficult to set free. This species has also been deliberately caught in fisheries and its fins used to make shark fin soup. Habitat degradation is an additional threat to this large fish, and its slow reproductive rate makes it difficult for its populations to recover. Although once common, the green sawfish has now been lost from many parts of its former range. International trade in this species is banned by CITES, but strict legal protection is needed, together with further research into its distribution and ecology, and monitoring of bycatch levels.
Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author