Looking for Lost Fish: Status of the Largetooth Sawfish (Pristis Pristis) in Costa Rica and the Central American Region

Mario Espinoza


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22 Mar 2016

Looking for Lost Fish: Status of the Largetooth Sawfish (Pristis pristis) in Costa Rica

21 Jun 2017

Looking for Lost Fish: Status of the Largetooth Sawfish (Pristis pristis) in Costa Rica and the Central American Region

12 Jun 2020

Identifying the Last Remaining Areas of the Critically Endangered Largetooth Sawfish in Costa Rica

Sawfishes are one of the most threatened group of elasmobranchs, with all five-species listed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered or Critically Endangered. In the Eastern Pacific, the Largetooth Sawfish (Pristis pristis) was once common from Mexico to Peru; however, over the past two decades the species has suffered significant population declines or is locally extinct from some countries. Largetooth Sawfish are still present in Costa Rica, but their status and distribution remain uncertain. The need to strengthen sawfish conservation actions throughout Central America has inspired new efforts to (i) identify critical habitats for sawfish, and (ii) develop a strategy to ensure their recovery and combat illegal trade. To achieve these goals, we will use multiple field sampling approaches, launch an outreach campaign to create awareness about the threats affecting sawfish populations, and produce a document with specific measures for combatting illegal trade in the region.

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Sawfishes are one of the most threatened group of elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) on the planet, with all five-species listed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered or Critically Endangered. In Latin America, the largetooth sawfish (Pristis pristis) was once common from Mexico to Peru; however, over the past two decades the species has suffered significant population declines or has been declared locally extinct from some countries. In Costa Rica, sawfishes are still present, but their status and distribution are uncertain.

According to the Global Strategy for Sawfish Conservation, there are two main actions that are crucial to the recovery of sawfish populations.

First, countries need to minimize and/or mitigate local threats affecting sawfish populations.

Second, countries need to build capacity, undertake research, education and outreach activities.

Our study sites in Costa Rica are included as priority areas in Central America to carry out these two main actions. The global significance of understanding the current status of the Critically Endangered largetooth sawfish in Costa Rica and promoting its conservation throughout this region has inspired our efforts to:

(i) identify critical habitats where sawfishes are still present;

(ii) determine local threats affecting their populations;

(iii) educate/raise awareness to promote a nation-wide conservation strategy; (iv) define effective conservation actions to ensure their long-term survival.

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