Smalltooth Sawfish Management

In 2009, the annual incidental take limit for the shrimp trawl fishery for the Smalltooth Sawfish under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was exceeded.  The current incidental take limit under the ESA is one Smalltooth Sawfish per year.  Unfortunately, three takes occurred in shrimp trawls in a relatively small area southwest of Key West, Florida that is under the South Atlantic Council’s jurisdiction and additional takes have occurred near the eastern Gulf pink shrimp grounds.  Consequently, NMFS will reinitiate consultations under Section 7 of the ESA which triggers the development of a new Biological Opinion on the status of smalltooth sawfish and a determination as to whether the shrimp fishery is causing jeopardy to the future survival of the species. The SSA immediately engaged in the  long, arduous and potentially draconian ESA regulatory process which will ultimately require the development of ‘reasonable and prudent alternatives’ to minimize mortalities of sawfish in the shrimp fisheries.  This is expected to be a very difficult challenge because the traditional bycatch exclusion technologies such as TEDs and BRDs are unlikely to provide a practical solution for sawfish.

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