Sawfishes are the only elasmobranch included in Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which prohibits any commercial trade in those species. Many scientists believe that sawfishes are the most endangered of all sharks and rays – and by some measures, of all groups of marine fish. The decline in sawfishes populations worldwide has prompted the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) to list all sawfish species as “Endangered” and “Critically Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. Despite international concern for sawfish conservation is raising, they are not specifically highlighted for protection effort in Indonesia. The main threat for sawfish populations is commercial fishing especially the capture of the non-target organism (bycatch) due to their tooth-studded rostra being easily entangled.
For now, Indonesia is not a priority country in the global conservation efforts of Sawfish. There was no science based-information about the presence and the abundance of sawfish in Indonesia waters. The works started with our project supervisor, Mr Dharmadi, from Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of the Republic of Indonesia, who run a baseline study to assess where sawfish can be found and how many are left in Indonesia. Now as we know that there is plenty of sawfish bycatch in Merauke, Indonesia, this project suggests that Indonesia has a potential area to become a sawfish sanctuary.
Sawfish Project Indonesia will combine social and scientific approaches. We will use fishery surveys and citizen science to investigate the bycatch factors behind the decline of the sawfish population. We also will use eDNA and satellite tag to find the presence of the species, estimate its relative abundance, track its movement, and discover their critical habitat.
We hope that this project can become an initiator to attract the attention of the Indonesian government and the attention of global stakeholders in sawfish conservation. We want to promote the fact that Indonesia has an area that needs to be protected because sawfishes are there and the by-catch continues. We want to join ConservationNOW to promote this issue widely so conservation efforts of sawfish in Indonesia get global recognition. We also want to connect and have a collaboration with sawfish conservation projects worldwide to share some insights and results.