News Stories

Sawfish Poachers Caught

Sawfish, Poachers, Conservation, Wildlife, Preservation, Florida

The officers being recognized for this arrest posing with the confiscated gilnet. 

Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Division of Law Enforcement arrested two men in October for using an illegal gillnet near Everglades City and killing an endangered smalltooth sawfish. The men now face several misdemeanor and felony charges.

Sonja Fordham with Shark Advocates International, and a member of the U.S. Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Implementation Team stated “It’s tough to read about the illegal killing of an endangered sawfish, but good to see FWC Officers taking the offense seriously and publicizing various aspects of the enforcement process. I’m hopeful law enforcement will also prioritize penalties for these individuals”.

The confiscated sawfish is being held as evidence during the investigation, then will be transferred to sawfish researchers with the FWC Port Charlotte Field Lab.

Sawfish, Poachers, Conservation, Wildlife, Preservation, Florida

Giilnets are illegal in many countries across the world because of their ability to decimate local wildlife populations.

Adam Brame, the NOAA Fisheries Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Coordinator said “I’m hopeful the legal process will hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions and that this unfortunate situation can be used to raise further awareness about the consequences of illegal fishing practices and their effects on endangered species.”

More information about the case is available in The Miami Herald at

This event is a good reminder about the impacts of illegal gillnet fishing. Gillnets are not selective therefore tend to catch both target and not-target species, which contributed to the decline of sawfish prior to the implementation of the Florida gillnet ban in 1995, when sawfish were incidentally caught by anglers targeting mullet.

Sawfish, Poachers, Conservation, Wildlife, Preservation, Florida

Sawfish are a protected species.

Smalltooth sawfish use the same shallow estuarine waters as mullet and unfortunately the sawfish rostrum (saw) is easily entangled in gillnets, making them a common bycatch species. Given the difficulty in removing sawfish from gillnets, they were often killed when incidentally captured.

Despite the population declines observed during the last century, we’ve seen positive signs in the smalltooth sawfish population since the protections of the 1995 net ban and the ESA-listing in 2003.

If you see or catch a sawfish, follow the viewing and handling guidelines at then note its estimated total length, and the date, time, and your location with GPS coordinates if available. Please share the information by visiting, calling 1-844-4SAWFISH, emailing [email protected], or entering the details in the FWC Reporter App to help scientists steer research and conservation efforts and track recovery of the population.