Authorities are investigating the death of an 11-foot female sawfish, weighing between 400 and 500 pounds, found dead Tuesday.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers have taken the carcass of the critically endangered species to a lab in Port Charlotte, where it will be studied by scientists, according to FWC spokesman Bobby Dube.
Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Lower Keys Marine Deputy Ed Swogger assisted the FWC officers when callers reported finding the protected fish near Marvin Key at approximately 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Adam Linhardt said.
The fish was loaded onto a Sheriff’s Office patrol vessel and was later transported by the FWC to a lab in Port Charlotte for study.
This was the second large sawfish to be found dead in the Keys in a week. A second larger sawfish was found off Cudjoe Key, according to Tonya Wiley of the Havenworth Coastal Conservation in Florida. That sawfish was also sent to the lab in Port Charlotte for a necropsy.
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is still investigating the killing of at least six critically endangered smalltooth sawfish in southwest Florida near Everglades National Park. The sawfish were found along the causeway between Everglades City and Chokoloskee and several had their rostra, or saw, removed.
NOAA is offering a reward of up to $20,000 for tips leading to prosecution of the offenders. The Center for Biological Diversity has added an additional $5,000 to the reward.
Smalltooth sawfish are protected from targeting and harm under the federal Endangered Species Act. Those caught accidentally must be left in the water and immediately released. Florida state law offers additional protections including a ban on the harvest, sale, purchase or exchange of sawfish rostra.
Smalltooth sawfish in the United States have been seriously depleted from overfishing. The species is now rarely found beyond southwest Florida.
Female sawfish typically give birth to only seven to 14 offspring every other year, meaning the loss of the six sawfish is the equivalent to one mother’s entire biennial offspring. Such a loss could turn out to be a setback in the recovery of this already depleted population, according to Wiley