Sawfish hits top international endangered list

October 16, 2012

Murdoch researchers work to save the Freshwater Sawfish in the Kimberley hit the international spotlight when it was included on a worldwide hot list of species facing extinction.

For the first time, more than 8,000 scientists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) came together to identify 100 of the most threatened animals, plants and fungi on the planet in the report ‘Priceless or Worthless’.

The 100 species from 48 different countries are first in line to disappear completely if nothing is done to protect them, and conservationists fear they’ll be allowed to die out because none of these species provide humans with obvious benefits.

The Freshwater Sawfish and the Western Australian Underground Orchid were the only species from Western Australia to make the list.

“‘Priceless or Worthless’ identifies the threats that these 100 species face, but it also identifies how they can be addressed,” said Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

“At a time when thousands of species are truly on the edge of extinction, it is time to ask society to take a stand – to declare that the 100 species in this book, and millions of others like them, have the right to exist on this planet.”

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the IUCN presented ‘Priceless or Worthless?’ at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September.

Researchers from Murdoch’s Freshwater Fish Group have been working with the people of the Kimberley to protect the Freshwater Sawfish over the past decade.

“Fitzroy River freshwater sawfish and dwarf sawfish are important because many populations in South East Asia and the east coast of Australia have become extinct,” said Senior Research Leader Dr David Morgan.

“We have tagged more than 700 sawfish, and we are learning about how this population of fish are moving through the river.

“We believe the freshwater sawfish spend the first four to five years of their life in the river before moving out to sea and can live to more than 40 years old and grow to more than 7m long.”

The team’s work with Sawfish has also been featured as the ‘Chainsaw Predator’ on US television show River Monsters, as well as National Geographic’s Monster Fish series.

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