May 20, 2024

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Sawfish fly to death in Florida – DW – 04/12/2024

Sawfish fly to death in Florida – DW – 04/12/2024

sawfish comb (Prestis pectinata), Marine organisms In danger of extinction Virtually unchanged in millions of years, they exhibit erratic behavior and die in unusual numbers in Florida waters.

Federal and state wildlife agencies are launching sawfish rescue and rehabilitation efforts to find out why. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration This was announced at the end of March. Recent press release from NOAA He described this effort as unprecedented.

“If the opportunity arises, this will be the first attempt to rescue and rehabilitate the comb sawfish in the wild,” said Adam Bram, NOAA's sawfish recovery coordinator.

The sawfish's habitat is reduced

Sawfishes, related to rays, rays, and sharks, get their name from their flat, elongated snout that has a row of teeth on each side. They can live for decades and grow very large, some up to 5 meters long.

They were once found along the entire Gulf of Mexico and the southern Atlantic coast of the United States, but are now found primarily in southwest Florida and the Keys island chain as their habitat expands. Related species are found off the coast of Australia.

“An unusual death incident”

Since late January, state wildlife officials have documented what they call an “extraordinary mortality event” that affected about 109 sawfish and killed at least 28 of them. Abnormal behavior, such as fish spinning or spinning in the water, has been reported.

according to Live sciencesSawfish make irregular turns in shallow water, causing them to run aground and die. According to scientists, this “abnormal fish behavior” has no explanation.

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Other types of fish appear to have been affected as well. “We think total mortality is higher because sawfish have negative buoyancy and are therefore less likely to float after death,” Bram said.

The authorities have not isolated the cause. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that a sawfish necropsy revealed no pathogens or bacterial infections, and no problems with low oxygen levels in the water or contaminants such as chemicals, or toxic red tide. Water analyzes continue.

It's also unclear whether the deaths and strange behavior are related to a prolonged summer heatwave in Florida waters, which experts say is caused by climate change. The extremely hot waters have caused other marine damage, such as coral bleaching and the death of other ocean species.

It has not been confirmed whether the Florida heat wave, attributed to climate change, links the fish kills and strange behavior to rising water temperatures that have also affected coral reefs and other marine species. Photo: Doug Perrin/Nature Image Library/IMAGO

Significant impact on sawfish populations

Wildlife agencies are working with three organizations to rehabilitate the rescued sawfish. one of them, mote Marine Laboratory And Aquarium, Even a relatively small number of sawfish kills could have a significant impact on the fish, which has been listed as endangered since 2003, he said in a news release.

“We have quarantine facilities set up to accommodate the rescued sawfish, where they will be monitored by qualified individuals under specific guidelines for their care and release,” said Katherine Flowers, a postdoctoral researcher at Moti and lead scientist on the fish issue. “Attempts to solve this puzzle will require strong collaboration.”

According to Bram, the effort relies on information and sightings provided by the public of dead or endangered sawfish so rescuers know where to look for them.

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In recent years, threatened manatees have also suffered major die-offs in Florida waters, where pollution has wiped out much of their food source.

State and federal officials fed the manatees that wintered outside the power plant for two years with tons of lettuce, and manatee numbers rebounded somewhat, with 555 deaths recorded in 2023 compared to 1,100 deaths in 2021.

Few (AP, NOAA, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, Live sciences)