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  • 12/31/2017 9:58 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Science to Save the Endangered Smalltooth Sawfish
    by Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation

    Several research partners conduct various research activities on the biology, behavior, and ecology of the endangered smalltooth sawfish population in the United States. These partners include state and federal governments, universities, nonprofits, and international organizations.  The results of these research projects are used to inform management decisions and enhance recovery efforts for this endangered species.

    Collecting Sawfish Data

    Researchers collect sawfish data using a variety of methods: (1) carcasses that are found and collected, (2) sawfish incidentally caught in federal fisheries, and (3) sawfish that are collected during research field surveys for the species.  Necropsies of sawfish carcasses provide the opportunity to collect data necessary for understanding age, growth, maturity, and reproduction.  Carcass recoveries provide valuable opportunities because these data are especially important and can only be collected through dissection, and researchers are not interested in sacrificing any individuals from the wild of a critically endangered species.     

    Fisheries observers aboard commercial fishing vessels are trained to sample any sawfish incidentally captured in federal fisheries.  These chance opportunities provide valuable insight in to where fisheries overlap with sawfish and the condition of sawfish upon release.

    Research field surveys for smalltooth sawfish are the most important method for collecting data.  A variety of survey methods are used to capture live sawfish for scientific purposes, including longline, rod-and-reel, and gillnets. Once captured, measurements and samples are taken from each sawfish prior to tagging and release.  These surveys are instrumental in monitoring trends in the abundance of the population.

    Samples

    Small tissue samples are collected during field capture of live sawfish and from old rostra for genetic analysis.  Genetics are useful in understanding population structure, diversity within the population, and both the size and health of the current population in comparison to the historical one.  Scientists are using genetics to determine whether there is significant movement and genetic exchange between the U.S. and Bahamas populations of smalltooth sawfish.

    Blood samples are collected from sawfish to measure reproductive status and stress physiology.  Hormones within the blood are used to assess reproductive cycling and periodicity.  Blood samples for stress physiology can be used to assess post-release mortality risk from a variety of fisheries and gears.

    Acoustic Tracking  

    Scientists are using the most recent technology to track the movements of smalltooth sawfish. This tracking involves capturing the animals, equipping them with acoustic transmitters, and releasing them.  Depending on the objectives of the project, scientists may track them from a boat using hydrophones to determine short-term microhabitat use or set up a network of in-water receivers (acoustic listening stations) to track longer-term broad-scale movements. Acoustic transmitters can be active for up to 10 years.  

    Satellite Tagging

    Larger juvenile and adult sawfish caught during surveys are also often fitted with GPS satellite tags.  Because far less is known about these larger animals, researchers hope that satellite tags can reveal important adult habitats.  Satellite tagging studies to date have shown that larger sawfish spent a large portion of their time in shallow coastal waters with periodic excursions to deeper waters off the shelf edge.

    Population Monitoring Through Encounter Reports

    If you catch or see a sawfish take a quick photograph of the sawfish, estimate its size, note your location, and please share the details with scientists.  The details of your sightings or catches of sawfish help to monitor the population and track the recovery progress.  You can share your information by calling 1-844-4-SAWFISH (844-472-9347) or emailing sawfish@myfwc.com.  

    In upcoming “Sawfish News” articles this year I will provide more details about the organizations working on each of these important components of the sawfish research projects. 

    For more information about endangered sawfish, visit:

    http://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pr/species/fish/smalltooth-sawfish.html

    or

    http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/fish/sawfish/

    or call 1-844-4SAWFISH


  • 11/29/2017 5:27 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Decline and Recovery of Sawfish in the United States
    by Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation  

    Their odd appearance and awesome size made them a prized catch for recreational fishermen.  Their unique elongated, blade-like snouts, studded with teeth on both sides, were often kept as trophies.  Net fishermen on the other hand considered them a nuisance because of the damage they would cause to their gear. 

    Two species of sawfish were once found in the US:  the largetooth sawfish, Pristis pristis, and the smalltooth sawfish, Pristis pectinata.  The largetooth sawfish was found throughout the Gulf of Mexico but was more common in western Gulf waters of Texas and Mexico.  The smalltooth sawfish ranged from Texas to New York and was most plentiful in the eastern Gulf waters of Florida.  Both sawfish species were considered “abundant” and “common” in the early 1900’s.  Numerous postcards, photographs, and newspaper articles from that era bear the scene of fishermen hauling in countless sawfish to boats, docks, and beaches across the country. 

    Photo 1: The Florida state record was caught by William Bloyd in Florida Bay in 1961, a 648 pound smalltooth sawfish measuring 15 feet 4 inches.

    Unfortunately the largetooth sawfish has not been seen in the United States since the last confirmed record in 1943.  The smalltooth sawfish has fared better and still remains in US waters, though at greatly reduced numbers and geographic range.  Today the smalltooth sawfish is found predominately in southwest Florida, notably including Everglades National Park (ENP).  The vast expanse of natural habitat within ENP, and limited fishing pressure, likely served as a refuge for sawfish as the population was under constant pressure. 

    What happened to these grand fish?  What caused them to vanish from much of our coastal waters?  The decline was due to a combination of three primary factors: (1) overfishing, (2) low reproductive potential, and (3) habitat loss. 

    Photo 2: The Texas state record was caught by Gus Pangarakis off the Galveston north jetty in 1939, a 736 pound largetooth sawfish measuring 14 feet 7 inches.

    Fishing mortality contributed significantly to the decline of sawfish in the US.  Many sawfish caught recreationally were landed and displayed for photographs.  Others were killed as anglers removed their saws for trophies.  Commercial fishermen killed sawfish to save their gear, not wanting to cut their valuable nets to remove captured sawfish.  And sawfish were over-exploited for a variety of other reasons.  Their meat was used for food, their skin for leather, and their liver oil used in lamps and as a source of vitamin A.  Their fins are valued for shark fin soup, their rostral teeth used as artificial spurs in cock-fighting, their cartilage ground-up for traditional medicines, and their saws sold as curios and ceremonial weapons.

    The reproductive strategy of sawfish doesn’t help them withstand these threats.  Sawfish bear live young, take many years to reach sexual maturity, and produce very few offspring per reproductive cycle.  This doesn’t allow sawfish to replenish the population very quickly.  This was especially problematic historically as they were being removed far more quickly than they were able to reproduce.  And it’s why now it is crucial to keep fishing mortality low in order to recover this endangered species.    

    Born at about 2 feet in length, juvenile sawfish rely on very shallow, coastal and estuarine waters close to shore for safety from predators, such as sharks, during the first years of their life.  However, these shallow coastal waters are the same areas that have been converted to waterfront development.  Now much of the natural shoreline vegetation has been developed into seawalls, beaches, marinas, roads, canals, and docks.  Therefore the natural vegetation and shallow habitats previously used by sawfish as important protective nursery areas have been greatly reduced in quantity and all but eliminated in some areas.

    Due to the dramatic decline of the sawfish populations, The Ocean Conservancy petitioned National Marine Fisheries Service in 1999 to protect both species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The smalltooth sawfish was classified as Endangered in 2003, making it the first fully marine fish and first elasmobranch (sharks, skates, and rays) protected by the ESA.  The largetooth sawfish was listed as Endangered in 2011.      

    Will sawfish in the United States recover?  Unfortunately, the largetooth sawfish is probably locally extinct and gone for good from US waters.  The smalltooth sawfish just might make a comeback; the population is already showing promising signs following protective measures.  Information on smalltooth sawfish recovery planning can be found at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/smalltooth-sawfish

    One of the best methods of monitoring the population as it recovers is the use of public sawfish encounters.  If you catch or see a sawfish take a quick photograph of it, estimate its size, note your location, and share the information with scientists.  The details of your sightings or catches help to track recovery progress.  You can share your information by calling 1-844-4-SAWFISH (1-844-472-9347) or emailing sawfish@myfwc.com.  Information about historic catches or the location of any old sawfish saws is also appreciated. 

    Remember, due to their protected status it is illegal to target, harm, harass, or handle sawfish in any way.  While it is technically illegal to catch a sawfish (except with a research permit or in a fishery where incidental take has been authorized) captures do occur while fishing for other species.  Any sawfish caught while fishing must be released as quickly as possible.  The number one rule to remember when handling and releasing a sawfish is to leave it in the water at all times.  Do not lift it out of the water on to your boat or a pier, and do not drag it on shore.  

  • 11/01/2017 11:26 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    What Does the Smalltooth Sawfish Critical Habitat Designation Mean?
    by Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation 

    Following a listing as “Endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the US population of smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) in 2003, NOAA Fisheries (NMFS) designated critical habitat for the species in 2009.  But what exactly does that mean and what does that do?

    The primary reason for the decline of the smalltooth sawfish population in the United States was mortality following capture in various commercial and recreational fisheries.  The secondary reason for the decline was habitat loss largely associated with coastal development and degradation.  So the preservation of habitat is an important consideration for conserving the species.

    Photo Credit: Juan Valadez, Two juvenile smalltooth sawfish swim in very shallow water near a river mouth in Everglades National Park.

    For the purpose of the ESA, critical habitat is defined as the specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing, that contain physical or biological features (1) essential to conservation, and (2) which may require special management considerations or protection.  The definition also includes a provision for specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing if the agency determines that the area itself is essential for conservation.

    A critical habitat designation protects certain features, particular attributes, of an area that are necessary to ensure the species does not go extinct and can recover to the point that protections of the ESA are no longer necessary.  For smalltooth sawfish the features determined to be essential to the conservation of the species are red mangroves and shallow, euryhaline habitats characterized by water depths between the Mean High Water line and 3 feet measured at Mean Lower Low Water.  Euryhaline means the area can have a wide range of salt content, or salinity, due to tidal fluctuations and freshwater input as occurs in estuaries, bays, and lower reaches of rivers.  These features were determined to be essential because they provide nursery habitat for small, young sawfish providing both shelter from predators and an abundant source of prey.

    Photo credit: Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation: A researcher prepares to release a juvenile smalltooth sawfish captured in shallow water along a mangrove shoreline in Florida Bay.  Research conducted under ESA permit #1352.   

    Two specific areas (units) located along the southwest coast of peninsular Florida were included in the critical habitat designation for smalltooth sawfish: the northern Charlotte Harbor Estuary Unit and the southern Ten Thousand Islands/Everglades Unit.     

    Photo credit: NMFS Office of Protected Resources: The two units of designated smalltooth sawfish critical habitat.

    So now that we’ve described why sawfish critical habitat was designated and defined both the areas and features of critical habitat, let’s look at how this affects coastal residents.  How is the designation applied and what does it mean for coastal development or recreational activities?  And how does the designation conserve the species?

    The designation of critical habitat provides a significant regulatory protection—the requirement that Federal agencies ensure, in consultation with NOAA Fisheries under section 7of the ESA, that their actions are not likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat.  The Federal Government, through its role in water management, flood control, regulation of resource extraction and other industries, Federal land management, and the funding, authorization, and implementation of a myriad other activities, may propose actions that are likely to affect critical habitat.  The designation ensures that the Federal Government considers the effects of its actions on critical habitat and avoids or modifies those actions that are likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat.   

    Critical habitat can contribute to the conservation of endangered species in several ways.  Designation under the ESA triggers a federal agency’s obligation to use their authorities to further the purposes of the Act which includes proactive conservation efforts.  Designation also helps focus the conservation efforts of other partners, such as State and local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals.  

    Photo credit: Dana M. Bethea, NOAA Fisheries: A neonate (newborn) smalltooth sawfish was captured and released on a muddy bank along a mangrove shoreline in Everglades National Park.  Research conducted under ESA permit #1352.

    The critical habitat designation for smalltooth sawfish does not necessarily prevent a homeowner from building a dock or repairing a seawall, result in new slow motor zones, close an area to fishing, or limit access to areas.  What the designation does do is add levels of review to ensure that any project which could alter those essential features is carefully considered before federal permits are authorized or funds are allocated.  In the case of smalltooth sawfish, critical habitat was designated in 2009 and has not resulted in any closed areas or lost recreational opportunities.  But it has led to the protection of shallow, mangrove-lined habitats which are important to the recovery of the smalltooth sawfish population.

    For more information about the designation of critical habitat for smalltooth sawfish visit:

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19425120.2012.676606

  • 10/12/2017 6:04 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)
    Meet Your Buddies at the Reel Animals Boat Show & Fishing Expo in Tampa


    The new Reel Animals Boat Show & Fishing Expo--known as the Frank Sargeant Outdoors Expo in a previous life--is on course for the Florida State Fairgrounds east of Tampa Nov. 17-19, and all FGA members are welcome to come out and enjoy the fun.

    The show, now skippered by Captain Mike Anderson of Reel Animals Television and radio shows with Sargeant as advisor, follows the same format as the original--for more than two decades Florida's largest fishing show--with continuous educational angling seminars from top pros on multiple stages and lots of family-friendly activities along with all the latest and greatest in fishing boats and angling gear. Plus, dozens of well-known expert anglers and guides are on hand, happy to give fishing tips to those who want them.

    For those of you who have print, radio or social media outlets, if you can find the space to give us a boost, it will be appreciated--and of course we'll be happy to return the favor if you need it down the trail.

    Show hours are 10 to 6 on Friday and Saturday, 10 to 5 on Sunday. There are plenty of on-site food vendors, and if you'd like a draft Bud as happy hour approaches, that's available, too. It's one big party for guides, anglers and their families, and we'd love to see you there. See details at www.ReelAnimalsBoatShow.com.

    Contact show manager Jim Scilligo for details: jim.scilligo@outsourcemediagroup.com or call 727-515-5652.

    We'll look forward to seeing you in Tampa.

  • 09/30/2017 5:50 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    First-ever sawfish birth filmed in the wild
    by Tonya Wiley, Haven Worth Consulting

    (Reprinted with permission from Florida State University Coastal & Marine Laboratory https://marinelab.fsu.edu/news-around-the-lab/dr-grubbs-documents-pregnant-sawfish-giving-birth-in-the-wild/)

    Sawfish are creatures of myth and legend, enormous shark-like rays with a huge rostrum bearing a row of formidable teeth protruding from each side. There are five species of sawfish in the world and all are considered Endangered or Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Dr. Dean Grubbs (Associate Director of Research, Florida State University Coastal & Marine Laboratory) and his colleagues have been studying the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish in Florida and the Bahamas since 2010, conducting research to aid sawfish conservation efforts. Much of their work has been directed towards using surveys, satellite tagging, and tracking to determine where adult sawfish mate, where the females give birth, where important nurseries are, and to determine where sawfish are most likely to be vulnerable to captures as bycatch in different fisheries. During a recent expedition funded by the Save Our Seas Foundation to the remote island of Andros his team made a discovery that will have major implications for recovery of this charismatic species. To set the stage, in 2003, smalltooth sawfish became the first native marine fish species listed as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Mangrove lined estuaries from Charlotte Harbor, Florida to Florida Bay in Everglades National Park have been designated as Critical Habitat for the species because these are the only areas where females were known to give birth and are thus critical to recovery of the species. Though sawfish were known to occur in the Bahamas, it was unknown whether these sawfish were born in the Bahamas or perhaps were part of the Florida population.

    Close-up of sawfish pup's rostral blade peeking out. At the embryonic stage, the rostrum is soft and flexible with teeth that are enclosed by a sheath, to protect the mother during birth--documented for the first time.

    On December 7, 2016 Dr. Grubbs’ team, including Dr. Andrea Kroetz (NOAA) and FSUCML graduate research assistants, Bianca Prohaska and Bryan Keller, captured a female sawfish on the west side of Andros, Bahamas that was just over 14-feet in length. During the process of tagging the large sawfish to monitor her movements, the team noticed there were the rostra of two baby sawfish protruding from her vent; she was giving birth. The research team, with the assistance of Field School staff Jake Jerome and Nick Perni, assisted the mother sawfish in the birth of five pups (i.e. baby sawfish) before releasing her to birth the rest on her own (it is believed sawfish give birth to 10-12 pups). This is the first time a live sawfish birth has been documented in the wild. The rostrum of a newborn sawfish emerges from the mother covered in a thick sheath of tissue covering the needle sharp teeth, thus protecting the mother. Dr. Grubbs’ team took genetic samples on both the mother and the five pups, implanted an acoustic transmitter in the mother and attached a satellite tag to her dorsal fin for tracking her movements, and inserted P.I.T. tags on the pups (a process similar to micro-chipping pets and lasts their lifespan). Afterward, the mother and the five pups were set free in the wild.

    Dr. Grubbs assists sawfish give birth to two pups--documented for the first time.

    Not much is known about sawfish reproduction, and while the birth was typical of many sharks and rays, this confirmed “pupping” of sawfish in Andros, Bahamas. Dr. Dean Grubbs has been studying sharks and rays for more than 25 years and describes the recent experience as “the biggest day of my research career.” This indicates there are now two known pupping and nursery areas (southwest Florida and west Andros), increasing the potential for recovery of this endangered species. Importantly, just as much of the critical sawfish habitat in Florida is protected in wildlife refuges and national parks, the area of Andros that the team has shown to be important habitat for adult and juvenile sawfish is within the recently formed West Side National Park. Protecting such areas is critical to recovery of the species.


    Dr. Dean Grubbs holds sawfish pup right after its birth.

    Sponsored by a Keystone Grant from the Save Our Seas Foundation and supported by The Field School and the Flamingo Cay Rod and Gun Club, the purpose of the research is to discover if there is any evidence of exchange between the sawfish population in the U.S. and Bahamas. Currently, sawfish populations are believed to be regionally resident, meaning they do not migrate far from their original habitat.

    To see footage of the expedition and live sawfish birth, check out a video produced by the Field School at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gt-sE14dYXs

    For more information about endangered sawfish, visit:

    http://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pr/species/fish/smalltooth-sawfish.html

    Tonya@HavenWorthConsulting.com
    941-201-2685
    www.HavenWorthConsulting.com

  • 07/30/2017 2:23 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Capt. Pat Kelly recently presented the 2017 Phil Chapman Conservation Award to Mr. Gil McRae. The occasion was a recent meeting of the FWC in Orlando. 

    Kelly recognized McRae for his passionate commitment to the conservation of Florida’s marine fisheries.

    “I know I speak for many when I say it has been a privilege to have Gil at the top tier of FWC’s leadership. Gil’s dedication to his profession, his work ethic and his stellar career with FWRI make him an example to be followed, and personifies the essence of the Capt. Phil Chapman Award,” said Capt. Pat Kelly, Past President, Florida Guides Association.

    For 15 years McRae has lead FWRI, which provides the scientific foundation for the management of Florida’s fish and wildlife resources. He oversees more than 30 FWRI offices across the state, which encompass programs such as the impacts of red tides, freshwater flows and levels, the research that guides the conservation and management actions for many of Florida’s important and unique species, as well as data collection for all of Florida’s saltwater commercial and recreational fisheries.

    “We truly appreciate Gil’s expertise and leadership. Our scientists and researchers are the guiding force behind what we do,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski.

    McRae received a Bachelor of Science degree in aquatic ecology from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science degree in fisheries science with a minor in statistics from the University of Minnesota. He has worked for the FWC since 1995 and has been the director of FWRI since 2002.

    FGA is extremely proud to present Gil McRae with the Phil Chapman Conservation Award. 


  • 07/30/2017 1:56 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Capt. Pat Kelly was on hand at the recent FWC meeting in Orlando to present awards to two deserving FWC officers. They were each chosen through a process of nomination. Officer Michael Bibeau has been an FWC officer for seven years. Officer Peter “Sean” Gaudion has been with FWC since 2013. The FGA Trained-Eyes Coast Watcher Officer of the Year Award is given for outstanding service to the state of Florida and its fishery.

    Officer Michael Bibeau

    Officer Michael Bibeau is married to Kara Bibeau and they live happily in Pinellas County. Mike was born and raised in Pinellas and attended USF in Tampa before being accepted to the academy. He started his career with the FWC in Collier County and we were lucky enough as a region to have him transfer back roughly three years ago. He enjoys the outdoors and loves to golf, fish and spend time with his wife on the beach.

    Like all Pinellas County officer’s, Mike does his fair share of outreach events throughout the year. He is a true ambassador for the FWC and represents all law enforcement officers in a positive light. His attitude and professionalism is why he has been a Field Training Officer six times and he takes that responsibility very seriously.

    Mike has a true knack for finding, and catching, those who break our resource laws. Florida’s resource protection is his passion, and time after time you’ll see him waiting and watching and then catching these violators. His patience, dedication, and knowledge make him such an asset to the agency that there is rarely a time you won’t see his name in the weekly report. Mike continues his excellence in resource protection by sharing his knowledge with other officers on the ins and outs of making quality resource cases.

    In 2016 Mike made 54 misdemeanor arrests, 6 warrant arrests, 2 felony arrests. He also wrote 37 uniform boating citations and 215 written warnings. He documented 400 hours of water patrol. He participated in multiple search and rescues and was nominated for a life-saving award.

    FGA is very proud to name Mike as co-recipient of this prestigious award.

    Officer Peter “Sean” Gaudion

    Officer Peter “Sean” Gaudion has been assigned to Pinellas County for the entire length of his service. Sean is a native Floridian and has lived in the Tampa Bay area for most of his life, after moving from Broward County at a young age. Sean is an avid fisherman and outdoorsman with a true passion for protecting Florida’s resources.

    Sean has always had a competitive nature that became evident when he received a scholarship to play football at UCF in Orlando. He participated in that program from 1999-2003. This competiveness and drive to succeed is also displayed in his daily work routine. Sean truly cares about making a positive impact on the citizens and resources of Florida. Sean has a wife, Brittney and a 1 year old daughter, Hazel. Sean is passionate about his job but his family is his true passion in his life.

    Sean is a team player that rarely takes full credit for his accomplishments. He networks with other officers and community members to organize efforts to stop major violations. He has organized multiple details targeting misdemeanor and felony resource violations. Sean submitted an operational detail report to target illegal net fishing activity that resulted in 27 misdemeanor arrests, 9 felony arrests and 12 warnings. He also submitted a detail, still on-going, to target a wide range of crab trap violations that has resulted in 4 misdemeanor and 3 felony arrests.

    Sean always comes to work with a positive attitude which inspires and motivates others. He sets the example for new officers and exemplifies the fact that hard work is rewarded. Sean uses discretion when dealing with the public. He educates violators with warnings when possible and charges individuals when necessary.

    In 2016, Sean made 47 misdemeanor and 9 felony resource-related arrests. Many of Sean’s cases involved working late nights into early mornings. He worked long shifts in harsh conditions that many officers were not willing to work. He accomplished this success while responding to SAR missions, multiple calls for service and being a member of the Southwest Special Operations Group (SOG). His SOG responsibilities included monthly training and responding to two hurricanes for multiple days at a time.

    FGA is proud to name Sean as co-recipient of the 2017 FGA “Trained-Eyes Coast Watcher” Officer of the year award.


  • 07/30/2017 10:31 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Sawfish Handling and Release Guidelines 
    by Tonya Wiley, Haven Worth Consulting

    Smalltooth sawfish are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, which makes it illegal to target, harm, harass, or handle them in any way.  While it is technically illegal to catch a sawfish (except with a research permit or in a fishery where incidental take has been authorized) captures do occur while fishing for other species.  Any sawfish caught while fishing must be released as quickly as possible.


    The guidelines below were developed to aid anglers in quickly and safely releasing incidentally caught sawfish.  These guidelines take into account the safety of both the endangered sawfish and the angler.  Sawfish are large, powerful animals that can cause serious injury, so use caution if you do catch one.
    The number one rule to remember when handling and releasing a sawfish is to leave it in the water at all times.  Do not lift it out of the water onto your boat or a pier, and do not drag it on shore. 

    General Release Guidelines:

    • ·        Leave the sawfish in the water
    • ·        Do not remove the saw (rostrum) or injure the animal in any way
    • ·        Remove as much fishing gear as safely possible
    • ·        Use extreme caution when handling and releasing sawfish as the saw can thrash violently from side to side
    • ·        Never use a gaff or drag the sawfish on a boat or on shore

    If hooked:

    • ·        Leave the sawfish, especially the gills, in the water
    • ·        If it can be done safely, untangle any line wrapped around the saw
    • ·        Cut the line as close to the hook as possible
    • ·        If hooked internally do NOT attempt to remove the hook, remove as much line as possible and cut the line close to the hook

    If tangled in a cast net:

    • ·        Leave the sawfish, especially the gills, in the water
    • ·        Untangle and cut the net removing as much of it as possible from the animal
    • ·        Release the sawfish quickly

    Sawfish are extremely susceptible to entanglement in recreational fishing lines and commercial nets.  Mishandling and the purposeful injury and killing of captured sawfish is both illegal and detrimental to the recovery of the population.  Never use a gaff on a sawfish you have caught and never remove the rostrum.  Rachel Scharer, a Sawfish Biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Charlotte Harbor Field Laboratory said “Lately we have been getting numerous public reports of an encounter with a sawfish missing its rostrum, and we have seen several sawfish without a rostrum during our research.”  Sawfish use their rostrum for detecting and catching food so in addition to being illegal, removal of the rostrum likely severely limits the animal’s chance to find enough food to survive.
    If you catch or see a sawfish take a quick photograph of the sawfish, estimate its size, note your location, and share the details with scientists.  The details of your sightings or catches of sawfish help to monitor the population and track the recovery progress.  You can share your information by calling 844-4-SAWFISH (844-472-9347) or emailing sawfish@myfwc.com.    

    Some fishermen have expressed concern that reporting encounters will result in the closure of their favorite fishing locations.  However, the smalltooth sawfish is already listed as an endangered species and critical habitat has been designated and neither of these actions has resulted in any closed fishing areas for recreational or commercial anglers.  Your encounter reports will be used to track recovery of the population and steer research efforts, which will ultimately benefit the species and the areas in which you fish.  Adam Brame, the Sawfish Recovery Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries, said “We are confident that NOAA and recreational anglers can work together to recover smalltooth sawfish so future generations can experience the thrill of encountering such a unique animal.”

    For more information about sawfish visit:

    http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/fish/sawfish/ or http://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pr/species/fish/smalltooth-sawfish.html

    All photographs were provided by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Charlotte Harbor Field Laboratory.  

  • 07/02/2017 11:44 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Celebrate the Fourth of July with bay scallops. State waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County through the Pasco/Hernando county line will be open for scalloping starting July 1. A span of waters in the middle from the Fenholloway River in Taylor County to the Suwannee River in Dixie County opened earlier this month on June 16 and will close on Sept. 10. (See map.)                              

    These new season dates are for 2017 only and are an opportunity to explore regionally-specific bay scallop seasons. Harvesting bay scallops is a fun outdoor activity that the whole family can participate in. It also brings an important economic boost to coastal areas in the open region.  

    The scallop season in St. Joseph Bay in Gulf County will be July 25 through Sept. 10 and includes all waters in St. Joseph Bay and those west of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County, through the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County.  

    All state waters from the Pasco-Hernando county line to the Suwannee River Alligator Pass Daybeacon 4 in Levy County, and from north and west of Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County will be open July 1 through Sept. 24.  

    Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff worked with local community leaders on selecting these regional 2017 season dates. 

    At the December 2017 Commission meeting, staff will review public feedback on these changes and make a recommendation for future management. Staff will host public workshops to gather feedback after the season closes. To submit your feedback now on bay scallop regulations, visit MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.  

    Bag and vessel limits throughout the entire bay scallop harvest zone are 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1/2 gallon bay scallop meat per vessel.  

    Scallops may be collected by hand or with a landing or dip net.  

    Scallops must be landed within the area that is open to harvest.  

    There is no commercial harvest allowed for bay scallops in Florida.  

    Be safe when diving for scallops. Stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or buoy when scalloping in open water and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or buoy if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators traveling within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or buoy in open water or 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel must slow to idle speed.  

    Done for the day? Help FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at svy.mk/bayscallopsHarvesters can indicate where they harvest scallops, how many they collect and how long it takes to harvest them. Participants can email BayScallops@MyFWC.com to ask questions or send additional information.  

    Learn more about long-term trends in the open and closed scalloping areas by visiting MyFWC.com/Research and clicking on “Saltwater,” “Molluscs,” “Bay Scallops” and “Bay Scallop Season and Abundance Survey.”  

    For more information on the season date changes for 2017, visit MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings,” then click on “2016” and “Agenda” under the November meeting.  

    For information on bay scallop regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.”

  • 05/02/2017 7:24 AM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is launching new programs to encourage people to help remove nonnative Burmese pythons from the Everglades ecosystem and surrounding area. Two new programs and a new Executive Order will provide people with incentives and expanded opportunities to remove these invasive constrictors.

    The Python Pickup Program is a new program designed to encourage the public to remove and report wild Burmese pythons by rewarding participants with valuable prizes. Starting now, anyone can participate in this innovative new program. People who remove pythons simply need to submit photographic evidence of the snake as well as the location from which it was removed. Anyone who submits this information will receive a free Python Pickup T-shirt for submitting their first entry. For every submission received, participants will be entered into a monthly prize drawing as well as a grand prize drawing to be held next year. Monthly prizes include snake hooks, custom engraved Yeti tumblers, Plano sportsman's trunks, GoPro cameras and Badlands backpacks. The grand prize is a Florida Lifetime Sportsman's License. The first drawing will take place in May 2017.

    As part of the Python Pickup, people can submit pythons removed from any property in Florida where they have authorization to do so from the property owner or land manager.

    A recent Executive Order allows people to remove pythons year-round from 22 public lands with no hunting license or wildlife management area permit required.

    "We know many Florida residents and visitors want to help tackle this tough conservation challenge by going after pythons in the wild and removing any they can find," said FWC Executive Director, Nick Wiley. "We want to continue to encourage and support this important citizen conservation effort. This Executive Order clarifies regulatory questions and makes it easier than ever for people to remove Burmese pythons from the wild."

    Earlier this month, the FWC also launched a Python Contractor Program which pays participants for efforts to remove Burmese pythons from the wild. The FWC selected 22 contractors already experienced with capturing wild Burmese pythons. Contractors are paid an hourly wage for their efforts to remove Burmese pythons. The FWC will also pay contractors for each snake removed. The program is similar to one recently implemented by the South Florida Water Management District.

    People interested in training on how to identify and safely remove pythons can take part in a Python Patrol Training. For more information, go to MyFWC.com/Python and click on "Python Patrol."

    The FWC will continue to work with the public and partners to explore other projects aimed at removing pythons and other nonnative species in Florida.

    People can also help with efforts to manage Burmese pythons and other nonnative species by reporting sightings to the FWC's Exotic Species Reporting Hotline at 888-Ive-Got1 (888-483-4681), online at IveGot1.org, or by downloading the free "IveGot1" smartphone app.

    For more information on Burmese pythons in Florida and the various management programs, visit MyFWC.com/Python.

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