NOAA proposes to list largetooth sawfish as endangered, but no critical habitat designation anticipated.
75 Fed. Reg. 25174 / Vol. 75, No. 88 / Friday, May 7, 2010 / Proposed Rules
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
50 CFR Part 224 / Docket No 0906221082–0122–02 / RIN 0648–XQ03
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Listing for the Largetooth Sawfish
ACTION: Proposed rule; 12–month petition finding; request for comments.
SUMMARY: We, NMFS, have determined that the largetooth sawfish (Pristis perotteti) qualifies as a ‘‘species’’ for listing as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and propose listing the species as endangered. This proposed rule also constitutes the 12–month finding on the petition to list the largetooth sawfish throughout its range and designate critical habitat for the species. We are not proposing to designate critical habitat. This proposed rule to list the species as endangered is based on the status review of the species (NMFS, 2010), and the best available scientific and commercial data. We also solicit information that may be relevant to the status and conservation of the species.
EXCERPT: In summary, the largetooth sawfish (P. perotteti) faces ongoing threats from habitat alteration, bycatch, trade, and the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms to address and reduce habitat alterations, bycatch, and trade. The species range has constricted so that it has not been seen in the U.S. since 1961. A similar range constriction is apparent at the southern extreme of the species’ historical range. The species has not been reported from southern Brazil for almost at century. All of the threats attributed to the species decline are ongoing, except for the directed largetooth sawfish fishery in Lake Nicaragua. The Lake Nicaraguan fishery collapsed presumably when the sawfish population collapsed. These ongoing threats exist throughout the species current range (Central and South America and West Africa) and existing regulatory mechanisms in place are insufficient to protect the species from further decline. No current or proposed conservation activities will be enough to sufficiently improve the species status. Based on our review, therefore, we find that the species is in danger of extinction throughout all of its range and should be listed as endangered.
KEITHINKING: NOAA originally listed the largetooth sawfish as a candidate species on June 11, 1991. See 56 Fed. Reg. 26797. Although NOAA denied a 2000 petition to list the species, it transferred the largetooth sawfish to the Species of Concern list on April 15, 2004. See 69 Fed. Reg. 19975. In 2009, WildEarth Guardians filed a petition to list the species, specifically asking for further consideration of species protection for the North American populations of the species. NOAA found the petition contained substantial information. See ESAblawg. A status review for the species, completed in March 2010, concluded that the species should be listed as endangered, and this rule followed. Historically, sawfish were rarely found in Florida's waters in the Gulf of Mexico, but not after 1961. (Florida laws also ban trade in parts of the species.) NOAA concluded that the species is primarily a foreign species, and thus, NOAA will not designate critical habitat: "The best available scientific and commercial information on the species does not indicate that U.S. waters provided any specific essential biological function other than general foraging opportunities for the species."
According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, the largetooth sawfish and the smalltooth sawfish (P. pectinata) are similar in appearance with overlapping ranges in the western Atlantic Ocean and parts of the eastern Atlantic Ocean. The two species can usually be differentiated by noting the number of teeth on one side of the rostrum. P. perotteti can have between 14-21 rostral teeth on one edge of the saw whereas P. pectinata usually has 23-34.