Skip to main content

Go back to blog

Endangered Australian Sawfish are on the verge of extinction

  • Friday 17th May 2019
  • Sawfish


This ‘Endangered Species Day’, Friday 17th May, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium recognise ways that we can help protect critically endangered Australian Sawfish

This Endangered Species Day, we are raising awareness of the plight of one of the most endangered animals on the planet.

Once abundant, sawfish - which are part of the Ray family - swam in the waters from Sydney to Perth. Nowadays you’re more likely to spot its saw nailed to the wall of a pub.

Rob Townsend, our Displays Manager here, said: “The sawfish, known for its long, tooth-edged rostrum that looks like a saw is one of the world’s most threatened marine creatures. Sadly, it has fallen victim to over-fishing, flesh and fin hunting, entanglement and habitat loss. This close relative of sharks and rays is found around the world in tropical and subtropical seas, but in recent years conservationists have become gravely concerned about populations worldwide.

“We are really fortunate at SEA LIFE Sydney to have two beautiful sawfish who live in the Day and Night on the Reef exhibit. Ryobi is about 10 years old and Roger recently moved down from our sister aquarium SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast. The transport of a sawfish is a very unique process, and involved over ten staff members, meticulous planning and a 24 hour move in a specially designed transport container with integrated life support systems. After this complicated process we are really thrilled with how well Roger has settled in his new environment.”

Roger, who originally lived at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, has spent the last year at his temporary home in SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast while the Day and Night on the Reef exhibit was under construction. You can now visit Roger, where he lives with over 500 other amazing sea creatures, including Green Sea turtles, Blacktip Reef Sharks and Bowmouth Guitarfish.


How endangered are Sawfish? 

Among the sharks and rays, sawfish are some of the most threatened, with all five species listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ or ‘Endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It’s a far cry from the days that sawfish were so plentiful that people in Sudan used their rostra as fence posts.Additionally, a study from Lake Nicaragua estimated that between 1970 and 1975 around 60,000 – 100,000 sawfish were caught in the lake by commercial fishers while a survey in 1992 could not find traces of a single individual in the lake.

How can you stop poaching and protect against endangered species? 

SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium have recently started working together with Sharks and Rays Australia (SARA) encourages anyone who has spotted a Sawfish, either in the wild or a sawfish rostrum on display, to report the siting: The more people that know about the importance of reporting sawfish encounters, the better for the largetooth sawfish. We need to increase public awareness to obtain the most timely and accurate information.

How are SEA LIFE Sydney helping to support this incredible species? SARA Sawfish Expedition this July 

  • SARA conducts research with sharks, rays and sawfish in the remote regions of Far North Queensland, the Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York. For this, we need dedicated field assistants. 
  • Nicole Weller, a Senior Aquarist at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium will be attending an expedition in July 2019, working as part of a small team with some of the most endangered species of sharks, rays and sawfish on the planet. During the expedition, Nicole will support the team by helping sample in rivers in which sawfishes have or have not been documented before and live-tracking sawfish. Any shark, ray and sawfish captured will be tagged and released.