The Narrow Sawfish is also known as Knifetooth Sawfish and Pointed Sawfish. They occur in the western and eastern Indian Ocean, western Pacific Ocean and the northwest Pacific. They are considered rare in many places that they were once spotted historically.
Biology and Behaviour
Narrow sawfish live and hunt near the bottom of the sea floor, mid water and near the surface at depths up to 100 m.
They are most distinguished by the long, narrow, flattened rostrum or extension on their snout.
Narrow sawfish are grey above and pale below. They have a flattened head, with a blade-like snout bearing 18 to 22 pairs of lateral teeth. Their rostral teeth are short, flattened, and broadly triangular. Their nostrils are very narrow with small nasal flaps. Adults have widely spaced denticles, and young narrow sawfishes have no denticles.
They feed on small fish, squid and invertebrates such as crabs and shrimps. Narrow sawfish use their rostrum by moving it side-to-side to stir up sediments and uncover their prey and among schools of fish to incapacitate or stun an individual fish.
Reproduction and Lifespan
Narrow sawfish are ovoviviparous with females gestating for five months. They have a litter size between six to 23 young in the spring. A pup’s rostral teeth are not fully developed and are covered by a membrane to prevent them from damaging the mother’s tissues.
Narrow sawfish mature between the length of 246 to 282 cm and reach maturity between the ages of two and three. They can grow up to 4.6 m in length. On average, a narrow sawfish lives for nine years.
Conservation and Tourism
The IUCN lists narrow sawfish as endangered. They are possibly extinct off the coast of Vietnam presumably because of habitat loss and commercial nets and trawl fisheries since they can get entangled in fishing gear. They have a poor post-release survival. Populations are suspected to have declined by 50 to 70 % over the last 20 or so years.
The narrow sawfish is listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix 1, which forbids international trade in the majority of cases.
In Australia, there is a legislative protection for narrow sawfish as a ‘no-take’ species in western Australia and Queensland. In India, take of sawfish is banned, but compliance is low because narrow sawfishes are still being landed.
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