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Coastal Protection for the Smalltooth Sawfish

Last February, I wrote about the plight of the sawfish, a large oceangoing fish related to sharks. This week, there’s good news for one sawfish species.

smaltooth sawfish conservation mapThe federal government has agreed to protect, through the National Marine Fisheries Service, habitat of the smalltooth sawfish along a stretch of Florida coastline in the Gulf of Mexico, about 150 miles long as the crow flies, including Charlotte Harbor, the Everglades and Florida Bay.

The protected coastal areas include 840,472 of critical habitat where young sawfish live. These areas are characterized by shallow water (three feet deep or less) where the salinity of the water frequently fluctuates. Red mangroves grow in these areas, forming roots that hold in coastal sediments, protecting the shoreline from erosion during hurricane season.

Human activities, such as dredging, that could disrupt these habitats will be made subject to regulation and consultation with the Fisheries Service. No one private land will be taken away as a part of this protection plan, which was agreed to in order to settle a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity.

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