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Green sawfish listed as vulnerable in Seaweek.

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MEDIA RELEASE The Hon Peter Garrett MP Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

PG/33 1 March 2008


One the eve of Seaweek, Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett announced today that the green sawfish (Pristis zijsron) has been listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act).

“This listing will make it illegal to kill, harm or take green sawfish in Commonwealth waters,’’ Mr Garrett said.

“This year’s Seaweek is focussed on conserving the sawfish, and this listing will mean that the green sawfish receives added protection in habitats between three nautical miles from shore out to the 200 nautical mile limit.

“The green sawfish faces ongoing threats from accidental catch in fishing nets, from illegal fishing for fins and rostrums - the distinctive saw-toothed snouts - and from habitat degredation through coastal development.

“Catch records tell us that this species may now be virtually extinct in south-east Asia and that northern Australia may be the last region where significant populations remain.

“Even in Australian waters, the green sawfish has contracted to the north. It was once recorded on the east coast as far south as Jervis Bay on the New South Wales coast, but is now rarely found south of Cairns.”

The green sawfish is listed as endangered in New South Wales waters, vulnerable in the Northern Territory and totally protected in Western Australia.

The green sawfish is a species of large ray from the family Pristidae. It has a large shark-like body, a flattened head and an elongated snout, which is studded with 24 to 28 pairs of rostral teeth, commonly described as a saw. Mature adult green sawfish can grow to five metres in Australian waters.

In Australian waters, green sawfish have historically been recorded in coastal waters off Broome, Western Australia, around northern Australia and down the east coast, where their range has now contracted. They are most commonly found on the floors of estuaries, river mouths and along sandy and muddy beaches. Their toothed rostrums, combined with their active hunting behaviour, make them highly susceptible to capture in all fisheries that use nets. They are also threatened by illegal poaching by foreign vessels for their fins and rostrums.

Seaweek is an initiative of the Marine Education Society of Australasia. It runs from 2-8 March 2008. For more details, go to:

Media contact: Margot Marshall 0418 624 847