Sawfish exploitation and status in Bangladesh

Md Anwar Hossain, Benjamin S. Thompson, Gawsia Wahidunnessa Chowdhury, Samiul Mohsanin, Zubair H. Fahad, Heather J. Koldewey, Md Anwarul Islam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Sawfish are among the world's most threatened and understudied marine fishes. There are few studies on sawfish from outside Australian and USA waters - a significant knowledge gap considering their circumtropical distribution and migratory nature. This paper presents the first assessment of sawfish exploitation and status in Bangladesh: a country that is subject to extensive fishing efforts, and home to the largest mangrove forest on Earth - an ecosystem that provides critical nursery habitat for juvenile sawfish. A countrywide rapid assessment was undertaken between December 2011 and November 2012, using an interdisciplinary methodology. Fish landing stations, dry fish markets, and fishing villages were visited and a sawfish medicine maker was found and interviewed. In addition, interviews with national specialists at academic and fisheries institutions were undertaken. In total, 203 questionnaire surveys were conducted with fishers and traders in order to understand the extent of decline, potential drivers of declines, and local perceptions and uses of sawfish. Eighteen rostra were documented from museum archives and private collections, and unpublished data were sourced. Two sawfish species, Pristis pristis and Anoxypristis cuspidata were confirmed to be present in Bangladesh. General population declines were revealed. The average annual sawfish encounter rate (observations and catches) declined from 3.7 individuals using lifetime recall data (~22-year), to 1.5 using 5-year recall data, and further to 0.7 using 1-year recall data. The consensus from social research methods was that sawfish were caught as bycatch, with drift gill nets being cited as the most damaging gear type. Every respondent perceived sawfish as a useful animal - typically for medicinal or cultural values. Conservation measures are proposed, including a local education and outreach programme to seek behavioural changes - primarily to release live sawfish.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781-799
Number of pages19
JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Coastal
  • Ecological status
  • Endangered species
  • Fish
  • Fishing
  • Mangrove
  • Ocean

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