NEWSLETTER 10/2010 14. October 2010


Waldiney Mello, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Departamento de Zoologia, Instituto de Biologia, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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ICES Annual Science Conference 2010
20-24 September
Nantes, France
Session E:
Elasmobranch Fisheries: Developments in stock assessment, technical mitigation and management measures

Early registration deadline Tuesday 31 August 2010


The IEG is pleased to announce that it will be hosting the 14th Annual European Elasmobranch Association Conference in Galway, 10th-13th November 2010. This international conference is a key feature on the EEA calendar and an opportunity to showcase the elasmobranch research currrently being undertaken in Ireland, Europe and further afield.

This is the first time the EEA conference has been held in Ireland and we look forward to giving you a warm welcome to Galway. For further information check out EEA 2010. More information will be added regularly.


35th Annual Larval Fish Conference

May 22-26, 2011

North Carolina

Meeting Web Site

27th Annual Meeting of the American Elasmobranch Society

July 6-11, 2011





SVP 71st Annual Meeting
November 2-5, 2011
Paris Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV USA





New: first description (digital version) of the following species:
























ADNET, S. & CAPPETTA, H. & TABUCE, R.; (2010); A Middle-Late Eocene vertebrate fauna (marine fish and mammals) from southwestern Morocco; preliminary report: age and palaeobiogeographical implications.; Geological Magazine, 147 (6): 860-870; Abstract:

CHAHUD, A. & FAIRCHILD, T.R. & PETRI, S.; (2010); Chondrichthyans from the base of the Irati Formation (Early Permian, Parána Basin), São Paulo, Brazil.; Gondwana Research, 18 (40239): 528; Abstract:

CIONE, A.L. & ACOSTA HOSPITALECHE, C. & PÉREZ, L. & LAZA, J. & CÉSAR, I.; (2010); Trace fossils on penguin bones from the Miocene of Chubut, southern Argentina.; Alcheringa, in press; Abstract:

CIONE, A.L. & GOUIRIC-CAVALLI, S. & MENNUCCI, J.A. & CABRERA, D.A. & FREIJE, R.H.; (2010); First vertebrate body remains from the Permian of Argentina (Elasmobranchii and Actinopterygii).; Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, 121: 301-312; Abstract:

CLAESON, K.M. & WARD, D.J. & UNDERWOOD, C.J.; (2010); 3D digital imaging of a concretion-preserved batoid (Chondrichthyes, Elasmobranchii) from the Turonian (Upper Cretaceous) of Morocco.; Comptes Rendus Palevol, In Press, Corrected Proof; Abstract:

CUNY, G. & COBBETT, A.M. & MEUNIER, F.J. & BENTON, M.J.; (2010); Vertebrate microremains from the Early Cretaceous of southern Tunisia.; Geobios, In Press, Accepted Manuscript; Abstract:

FISCHER, J. & VOIGT, S. & SCHNEIDER, J.W. & JOACHIMSKI M.M. & BERNER, U.; (2010); Oxygen isotopes from non-marine shark tooth enameloid - environmental and ecological implications for the  Late Palaeozoic  of Central Europe. Abstract.; Zitteliana, 29: 36

KOGAN, I. & FISCHER, J. & VOIGT, S. & LICHT, M. & SCHNEIDER, J.W.; (2010); The Madygen lake deposits a unique multi-taxa kindergarten for Triassic fishes? Abstract.; Zitteliana, 29: 61;

MAISEY, J.G. & LANE, J.A.; (2010); Labyrinth morphology and the evolution of low-frequency phonoreception in elasmobranchs.; Comptes Rendus Palevol, In Press, Corrected Proof; Abstract:

MARTÍNEZ-PÉREZ, C. & DUPRET, V. & MANZANARES, E. & BOTELLA, H.; (2010); New data on the Lower Devonian chondrichthyan fauna from Celtiberia (Spain).; Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 30 (5): 1622-1627; Abstract:

MYERS, C.E. & LIEBERMAN, B.S.; (2010); Sharks that pass in the night: using Geographical Information Systems to investigate competition in the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway.; Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, in press; Abstract:



De Maddalena, A. & W. Heim (2010): Sharks of New England. Down East, Rockport, 184 pp. Paperback, black and white drawings by Alessandro De Maddalena, color photographs, 23.5 x 19.0 cm. ISBN: 978-089272-813-8. Price: US Dollar 24.95.

The cold waters of New England are home to 33 different species of sharks. Accurately illustrated and meticulously researched, this book is a handy field guide to the sharks inhabiting New England waters. Its aim is to provide accurate scientific information on sharks in general and to profile those species that inhabit the waters of New England. Information provided for each species includes classification, morphology, color, teeth shape and dental formula, size, age, embryonic development, diet, habitat, geographical distribution, behavior, and threat (if any) to humans. The text is supported by many beautiful photographs. The Foreword is by Richard Ellis.


ABEL, R.L. & MACLAINE, J.S. & COTTON, R. & XUAN, V.B. & NICKELS, T.B. & CLARK, T.H. & WANG, Z. & COX, J.P.L.; (2010); Functional morphology of the nasal region of a hammerhead shark?; Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 155 (4): 464

AKHILESH, K.V. & HASHIM, M. & BINEESH,K.K. & SHANIS, C.P.R. & GANGA, U.; (2010); New distributional records of deep-sea sharks from Indian waters.; Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India, 52 (1): 29-34

ANDERSON, W.G. & DASIEWICZ, P.J. & LIBAN, S. & RYAN, C. & TAYLOR, J.R. & GROSELL, M. & WEIHRAUCH, D.; (2010); Gastro-intestinal handling of water and solutes in three species of elasmobranch fish, the white-spotted bamboo shark, Chiloscyllium plagiosum, little skate, Leucoraja erinacea and the clear nose skate Raja eglanteria?; Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 155 (4): 493

ASCHLIMAN, N. & EBERT, D.A. & COMPAGNO, L.J.V.; (2010); A New Legskate (Rajoidei: Genus Cruriraja) from Southern Africa.; Copeia, 2010 (3): 364-372; Abstract:

BAETA, F. & BATISTA, M. & MAIA, A. & COSTA, M.J. & CABRAL, H.; (2010); Elasmobranch bycatch in a trammel net fishery in the Portuguese west coast.; Fisheries Research, 102 (40210): 123

BARKER, S.M. & WILLIAMSON, J.E.; (2010); Collaborative photo-identification and monitoring of grey nurse sharks (Carcharias taurus) at key aggregation sites along the eastern coast of Australia.; Marine and Freshwater Research, 61 (9): 971-979; Abstract:

BERNAL, D. & DONLEY, J.M. & MCGILLIVRAY, D.G. & AALBERS, S.A. & SYME, D.A. & SEPULVEDA, C.; (2010); Function of the medial red muscle during sustained swimming in common thresher sharks: Contrast and convergence with thunniform swimmers?; Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 155 (4): 454

BOOMER, J.J. & PEDDEMORS, V. & STOW, A.J.; (2010); Genetic data show that Carcharhinus tilstoni is not confined to the tropics, highlighting the importance of a multifaceted approach to species identification.; Journal of Fish Biology, 77 (5): 1165-1172; Abstract:

CABALLERO-RIVERA, D. & CRUZ-NIEVES, O.A. & OYOLA-CINTRÓN, J. & OTERO-CRUZ, J.D. & TORRES-NÚÑEZ, D.A. & RODRÍGUEZ-ESPADA, D. & HOYO-RIVERA, N.D. & LASALDE-DOMINICCI, J.A.; (2010); Fourier Transform Coupled Tryptophan Scanning Mutagenesis of the Lipid Exposed DM3 And DM4 Transmembrane Domains of the Torpedo Californica Acetylcholine Receptor.; Biophysical Journal, 98 (3 Supplement 1): 132a

CAPAPÉ, C. & DIATTA, Y. & NDIAYE, P. & REYNAUD,C. & ODDONE, M.C.; (2010); "New biological data on the brown ray, Raja miraletus (Chondrichthyes: Rajidae), off the coast of Senegal (eastern tropical Atlantic)."; Ciencias Marinas, 36 (3): 369-388

CATLIN, J. & JONES, R.; (2010); Whale shark tourism at Ningaloo Marine Park: A longitudinal study of wildlife tourism.; Tourism Management, 31 (3): 386-394

COLAUTTI, D. & BAIGUN, C. & CAZORLA, A.L. & DE VERTEBRADOS, Z. & LLOMPART, F. & MOLINA, J.M. & SUQUELE, P. & CALVO, S.; (2010); Population biology and fishery characteristics of the smoothhound Mustelus schmitti in Anegada Bay, Argentina.; Fisheries Research, In Press, Accepted Manuscript

DE BOECK, G. & WOOD, C.M.; (2010); Biology of elasmobranchs: From genes to ecophysiology and behaviour?; Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 155 (4): 415

DOWD, W.W. & HARRIS, B.N. & CECH, J.J. & KÜLTZ, D.; (2010); Proteomic and physiological responses of leopard sharks (Triakis semifasciata) to salinity change.; Journal of Experimental Biology, 213 (Pt 2): 210-224

DUNCAN, W.P. & DA COSTA, O.T.F. & SAKURAGUI, M.M. & FERNANDES, M.N.; (2010); Functional morphology of the gill in amazonian freshwater stingrays (chondrichthyes: potamotrygonidae): implications for adaptation to freshwater.; Physiological and biochemical Zoology : PBZ, 83 (1): 19-32

DUNN, M.R. & SZABO, A. & MCVEAGH, M.S. & SMITH, P.J.; (2010); The diet of deepwater sharks and the benefits of using DNA identification of prey.; Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 57 (7): 923

EBERT, D.A. & WHITE, W.T. & GOLDMAN, K.J. & COMPAGNO, L.J.V. & DALY–ENGEL, T.S. & WARD, R.D.; (2010); Resurrection and redescription of Squalus suckleyi (Girard, 1854) from the North Pacific, with comments on the Squalus acanthias subgroup (Squaliformes: Squalidae).; Zootaxa, 2612: 22-40

ESCOBAR-SÁNCHEZ, O. & GALVÁN-MAGAÑA, F. & ROSÍLES-MARTÍNEZ, R.; (2010); Mercury and selenium bioaccumulation in the smooth hammerhead shark, Sphyrna zygaena Linnaeus, from the Mexican Pacific Ocean.; Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 84 (4): 488-491

ESSUMANG, D.K.; (2010); First determination of the levels of platinum group metals in Manta birostris (manta ray) caught along the Ghanaian coastline.; Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 84 (6): 720-725

EVANS, A.N. & HENNING, T. & GELSLEICHTER, J. & NUNEZ, B.S.; (2010); Molecular classification of an elasmobranch angiotensin receptor: Quantification of angiotensin receptor and natriuretic peptide receptor mRNAs in saltwater and freshwater populations of the Atlantic stingray.; Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, In Press, Corrected Proof

EVANS, A.N. & NUNEZ, B.S.; (2010); Regulation of mRNAs encoding the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein and cholesterol side-chain cleavage enzyme in the elasmobranch interrenal gland.; General and Comparative Endocrinology, 168 (1): 121

FRICK, L.H. & WALKER, T.I. & REINA, R.D.; (2010); Trawl capture of Port Jackson sharks; Heterodontus portusjacksoni; and gummy sharks; Mustelus antarcticus; in a controlled setting: effects of tow duration; air exposure and crowding.; Fisheries Research, In Press, Accepted Manuscript

GARDINER, J.M. & ATEMA, J.; (2010); The Function of Bilateral Odor Arrival Time Differences in Olfactory Orientation of Sharks.; Current Biology, 20 (13): 1187

GILMOUR, K.M. & PERRY, S.F.; (2010); Gas transfer in dogfish: A unique model of CO2 excretion?; Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 155 (4): 476

HARRY, A.V. & SIMPFENDORFER, C.A. & TOBIN, A.J.; (2010); Improving age; growth; and maturity estimates for aseasonally reproducing chondrichthyans.; Fisheries Research, In Press, Accepted Manuscript

HEBERER, C. & AALBERS, S.A. & BERNAL, D. & KOHIN, S. & DIFIORE, B. & SEPULVEDA, C.A.; (2010); Insights into catch-and-release survivorship and stress-induced blood biochemistry of common thresher sharks (Alopias vulpinus) captured in the southern California recreational fishery.; Fisheries Research, In Press, Accepted Manuscript

HONDA, Y. & KONDO, H. & CAIPANG, C.M.A. & HIRONO, I. & AOKI, T.; (2010); cDNA cloning of the immunoglobulin heavy chain genes in banded houndshark Triakis scyllium.; Fish & Shellfish Immunology, 29 (5): 854

HUSSEY, N.E. & BRUSH, J. & MCCARTHY, I.D. & FISK, A.T.; (2010); delta15N and delta13C diet-tissue discrimination factors for large sharks under semi-controlled conditions.; Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 155 (4): 445-453

KATSU, Y. & KOHNO, S. & NARITA, H. & URUSHITANI, H. & YAMANE, K. & HARA, A. & CLAUSS, T.M. & WALSH, M.T. & MIYAGAWA, S. & GUILLETTE, L.J. & IGUCHI, T.; (2010); Cloning and functional characterization of Chondrichthyes, cloudy catshark, Scyliorhinus torazame and whale shark, Rhincodon typus estrogen receptors.; General and Comparative Endocrinology, 168 (3): 496

LAM, V.Y.Y. & SADOVY DE MITCHESON, Y.; (2010); The sharks of South East Asia – unknown, unmonitored and unmanaged.; Fish and Fisheries, in press; Abstract:

LÓPEZ-CRUZ, R.I. & ZENTENO-SAVÍN, T. & GALVÁN-MAGAÑA, F.; (2010); Superoxide production, oxidative damage and enzymatic antioxidant defenses in shark skeletal muscle.; Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 156 (1): 50

LOPPION, G. & LAVIGNE, R. & PINEAU, C. & AUVRAY, P. & SOURDAINE, P.; (2010); Proteomic analysis of the spermatogonial stem cell compartment in dogfish Scyliorhinus canicula L.; Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part D: Genomics and Proteomics, 5 (2): 157

MACDONALD, E.E. & VOLKOFF, H.; (2010); Molecular cloning and characterization of preproorexin in winter skate (Leucoraja ocellata).; General and Comparative Endocrinology, In Press, Uncorrected Proof

MACDONALD, R.B. & DEBIAIS-THIBAUD, M. & MARTIN, K. & POITRAS, L. & TAY, B.-H. & VENKATESH, B. & EKKER, M.; (2010); Functional conservation of a forebrain enhancer from the elephant shark (Callorhinchus milii ) in zebrafish and mice.; BMC Evolutionary Biology, 10 (1): 157-.; Abstract:

MANSOUR, M.B. & DHAHRI, M. & HASSINE, M. & AJZENBERG, N. & VENISSE, L. & OLLIVIER, V. & CHAUBET, F. & JANDROT-PERRUS, M. & MAAROUFI, R.M.; (2010); Highly sulfated dermatan sulfate from the skin of the ray Raja montagui: anticoagulant activity and mechanism of action.; Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 156 (3): 206

MOTTA, P.J. & MASLANKA, M. & HUETER, R.E. & DAVIS, R.L. & DE LA PARRAD, R. & MULVANYA, S.L. & HABEGGER, M.L. & STROTHER, J.A. & MARA, K.R. & GARDINER, J.M. & TYMINSKI, J.P. & ZEIGLER, L.D.; (2010); Feeding anatomy, filter-feeding rate, and diet of whale sharks Rhincodon typus during surface ram filter feeding off the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.; Zoology, in press; Abstract:

MULL, C.G. & LOWE, C.G. & YOUNG, K.A.; (2010); Seasonal reproduction of female round stingrays (Urobatis halleri): Steroid hormone profiles and assessing reproductive state.; General and Comparative Endocrinology, 166 (2): 379

NAKADA, T. & WESTHOFF, C.M. & YAMAGUCHI, Y. & HYODO, S. & LI, X. & MURO, T. & KATO, A. & NAKAMURA, N. & HIROSE, S.; (2010); Rhesus glycoprotein p2 (Rhp2) is a novel member of the Rh family of ammonia transporters highly expressed in shark kidney.; Journal of Biological Chemistry, 285 (4): 2653-2664

NAM, D.-H. & ADAMS, D.H. & FLEWELLING, L.J. & BASU, N.; (2010); Neurochemical alterations in lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) brains in association with brevetoxin exposure.; Aquatic Toxicology, 99 (3): 351

PARTON, A. & BAYNE, C.J. & BARNES, D.W.; (2010); Analysis and functional annotation of expressed sequence tags from in vitro cell lines of elasmobranchs: Spiny dogfish shark (Squalus acanthias) and little skate (Leucoraja erinacea).; Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part D: Genomics and Proteomics, 5 (3): 199

PEREYRA, S. & GARCÍA, G. & MILLER, P. & OVIEDO, S. & DOMINGO, A.; (2010); Low genetic diversity and population structure of the Narrownose shark (Mustelus schmitti).; Fisheries Research, In Press, Accepted Manuscript

PIERCY, A.N. & CARLSON, J.K. & PASSEROTTI, M.S.; (2010); Age and growth of the great hammerhead shark, Sphyrna mokarran, in the north-westernAtlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.; Marine and Freshwater Research, 61 (9): 992-998; Abstract:

REISS, K.L. & BONNAN, M.F.; (2010); Ontogenetic scaling of caudal fin shape in Squalus acanthias (Chondrichthyes, Elasmobranchii): a geometric morphometric analysis with implications for caudal fin functional morphology.; Anatomical Record, 293 (7): 1184-1191

RYTKÖNEN, K.T. & RENSHAW, G.M.C. & ASHTON, K.J. & WILLIAMS-PRITCHARD, G. & LEDER, E.H. & NIKINMAA, M.; (2010); Elasmobranch qPCR reference genes: a case study of hypoxia preconditioned epaulette sharks.; BMC Molecular Biology, 11 (1): 27-.; Abstract:

SAUNDERS, R.A. & ROYER, F. & CLARKE, M.W.; (2010); Winter migration and diving behaviour of porbeagle shark, Lamna nasus, in the Northeast Atlantic.; ICES Journal of Marine Science, in press; Abstract:

SPEERS-ROESCH, BEN. & TREBERG, JASON.R.; (2010); The unusual energy metabolism of elasmobranch fishes.; Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 155 (4): 417

THEODOSIOU, N.A. & SIMEONE, A.; (2010); Evidence for a rudimentary colon in the elasmobranch, Leucoraja erinacea.; Developmental Biology, 344 (1): 533

TIRARD, P. & MANNING, M.J. & JOLLIT, I. & DUFFY, C. & BORSA, P.; (2010); Records of Great White Sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) in New Caledonian Waters.; Pacific Science, 64 (4): 567-576; Abstract:

TSAI, W.P. & LIU, K.-M. & JOUNG, S.-J.; (2010); Demographic analysis of the pelagic thresher shark, Alopias pelagicus, in the north-western Pacific using a stochastic stage-based model.; Marine and Freshwater Research, 61 (9): 1056-1066; Abstract:

VAN RIJN, J.A. & REINA, R.D.; (2010); Distribution of leukocytes as indicators of stress in the Australian swellshark, Cephaloscyllium laticeps.; Fish & Shellfish Immunology, 29 (3): 534

WHITENACK, L.B. & SIMKINS, D.C. & MOTTA, P.J. & HIRAI, M. & KUMAR, A.; (2010); Young's modulus and hardness of shark tooth biomaterials.; Archives of Oral Biology, 55 (3): 203


The Secret Life of Ireland's Smooth-Hound Sharks

ScienceDaily (Oct. 4, 2010) — They grow to over a meter in length, can weigh up to twelve kilos and each summer they swarm into the shallow waters of the Irish east coast. Despite this, the starry smooth-hound has remained Ireland's least well known shark species. However, thanks to researchers at University College Dublin, whose work is now published in the Journal of Fish Biology, this may be about to change.

Dr. Edward Farrell, who recently graduated from UCD School of Biology & Environmental Science, spent the last four years studying these unusual sharks. Under the supervision of Dr. Stefano Mariani of the SBES and Dr. Maurice Clarke of the Marine Institute, the PhD project successfully investigated the age, growth, reproduction and identification of the species in the Northeast Atlantic.

"It's amazing how little was known about this species considering their size and abundance on the east coast," said Farrell. "Until recently we weren't even sure what species we were dealing with but we developed a genetic method which allowed us to confirm that it is the starry smooth-hound which occurs in Irish waters and not the related common smooth-hound. Once this was established we were able to investigate their life-history."

Starry smooth-hounds were previously considered to be a fast growing and early maturing species, meaning they were not a conservation concern. However the results of the four year project have revealed that starry smooth-hounds in Irish waters actually grow twice as slowly as previously estimated and only reproduce every two years rather than annually as is the case in the Mediterranean.

"Some of the findings are quite worrying for the species as males don't mature until they are 4-5 years old and females until they are 6 years old, said Farrell. "Females also appear to take two years to complete the reproductive cycle. The pups develop inside the female for approximately 12 months before being born after which the female has a resting period of about another year before she is capable of becoming pregnant again."

With such a slow reproductive rate, unregulated commercial fishing could have a serious impact on the species in a short time, as was seen with the spurdog fisheries in the 1980s. Spurdogs were once the most abundant shark species in the Northeast Atlantic however they have been all but wiped out by commercial fisheries and are now listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Redlist.

Starry smooth-hounds are not a valuable commercial species in Ireland but on the continent they are highly sought after and the landings from French boats, currently about 2640 tonnes annually, are increasing. The previous lack of knowledge of their basic life history in the Northeast Atlantic has prevented the development of management and conservation strategies.

Once abundant in the Mediterranean Sea and Southern European waters, years of over fishing have caused their disappearance from much of their former range. In Irish waters though, starry smooth-hounds seem to be increasing in abundance. The reasons for this are unclear but it does offer the unique opportunity to help conserve this enigmatic species.

These findings of the project indicate that starry smooth-hounds are more susceptible to exploitation than previously thought and management measures are needed now to ensure their conservation.

"There are currently no management measures for this species in European waters mainly due to the lack of biological information," says Farrell. "So our main aim was to gather the necessary data. Hopefully this can be used now to ensure their sustainability and prevent a repeat of the overexploitation seen in Mediterranean waters."

Stefano Mariani believes that it is paramount to protect these sharks in Irish waters. "Smooth-hounds have a very specialized diet: they don't eat fish, they feed on bottom-dwelling shellfish, crunching crabs with their very peculiar molariform teeth. These animals are likely to have a very important role in the trophic web."

Starry smooth-hound sharks are also highly sought-after and respected by anglers, and they certainly provide an additional excitement to our coasts.

"Dublin Bay offers tourists the opportunity to easily observe two species of seals," concluded Mariani. "We should be proud that our coasts also provide beach-goers with a chance of swimming alongside beautiful and harmless sharks. There are not many other places like this in Europe."

Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.



. Retrieved October 10, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/10/101003205939.htm


Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

This is a starry smooth-hound pup in Wexford. (Credit: Edward Farrell)


Smalltooth sawfish are in short supply

October 6, 2010
At 10:20 Friday, the researchers checked the two 50-yard gill nets in a quiet bayou of the Peace River — a disappointing nothing.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission researchers Sarah Erickson, Amy Timmers, Gregg Poulakis and Bill Curnow were looking for smalltooth sawfish, a shark-like ray listed as a federally endangered species in 2003.

“They’re hiding,” Timmers said.

FWC researchers are participating in a $2.8 million multiorganization study of smalltooth sawfish to help the animal’s population recover. The study is financed by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Other organizations include the University of Florida and Florida State University (satellite tagging adult sawfish in the Keys — FSU is also looking at juvenile habitat in Everglades National Park), University of North Florida (studies to determine sawfish diet), and Stony Brook University (population genetics).

FWC’s piece of the research pie is $500,000 to monitor sawfish nursery habitat in the Charlotte Harbor system, including the Caloosahatchee River.

Among other things, FWC researchers are looking at juvenile sawfish movement patterns, where sawfish tend to congregate, how they use the habitat and the overall health of the animals.

“Nursery areas are the areas that rebuild the population,” said Phil Stevens, research administrator of FWC’s Charlotte Harbor Field Laboratory. “Protecting that habitat is going to lead to juveniles becoming adults.”

Protecting sawfish nursery habitat would go beyond helping sawfish, Poulakis said.

“These habitats are important for other species, like snook and redfish,” he said. “All the species that use these areas will benefit under the guise of protecting sawfish.”
Smalltooth sawfish once ranged from New York to Texas, but the U.S. population, estimated to be about 5 percent of its historic size, is now restricted to Southwest Florida.

Overfishing and habitat loss are the main reasons for the sawfish population collapse.

“Historically, South Florida was the center of distribution for smalltooth sawfish,” FSU marine ecologist Dean Grubbs said. “These animals have to have areas with appropriate habitat — mangrove-fringed shorelines adjacent to seagrass — and the only area that still has that habitat is Southwest Florida. When any population declines, the center of distribution tends to be the last place you see them.”

Although researchers have long known that smalltooth sawfish spend their first two or three years in estuaries, little was known about their life history while in that habitat.

In 2004, FWC started looking at Charlotte Harbor, using a variety of methods to catch sawfish.

Last week, they used the 50-yard gill nets at two locations and a 600-foot seine net at a third location; nets were soaked for an hour at each site.

From 2004 through 2009, FWC caught 137 juvenile sawfish from 26 inches to 7 feet in length.

Catches showed that juvenile sawfish are concentrated at the mouths of the Myakka, Peace and Caloosahatchee rivers.

Within those areas are five hot spots, four in the Caloosahatchee (Iona Cove, Glover Bight, Cape Coral canals by Redfish Point and the U.S. 41 bridges) and the Harborview area on the Peace River.

Juvenile sawfish like to get into creeks and other remote places, and a bit of a surprise was that they like the canals of Cape Coral. The question is: Why?

“We don’t know the answer to that,” Stevens said. “Is it because the habitat is so modified that the canals are the only creek-like places they can find? The predator most likely to eat juvenile sawfish is the bull shark, and if bull sharks don’t like to go into canals, that can be a darn good place to be.”

Unfortunately, none of the locations the FWC researchers fished Friday were darn good places to be — the team was skunked.

Despite the lack of sawfish, the day was not a total loss, Erickson said.