The search for the Territory’s sawfish

October 13, 2022 6:38 am in by
Local News


The Northern Territory Seafood Council is excited about a scientific voyage on board a commercial barramundi fishing vessel that will depart Darwin this Friday, heading to Arnhem and Buckingham Bay with the aim to tag adult sawfish.

‘Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS) are chartering a commercial Barramundi vessel with experienced commercial fishers crew, and scientists to undertake the tagging,’ said Northern Territory Seafood Council, Chief Executive Officer, Ms Katherine Winchester.

‘It is wonderful to see professional fishers who should be putting their feet up after a long Barramundi fishing season putting their hands up to head back out to sea for another two weeks to aid scientists with this field work.

‘Thanks to NT Fisheries we have been granted a permit for the commercial barramundi vessel, FV North Islander, to operate outside of the commercial barramundi fishing season which means we have experienced fishers with the scientists giving them the best chance to capture and tag sawfish.

‘We have used the combination of existing information alongside the knowledge captured in interviews with professional fishers, to aid in identifying regions that would best suit the field trip for environmental monitoring, to safely capture, release and satellite tag up to six adult sawfish.

‘Any sawfish that are not large enough for the tags that are caught in the commercial gillnet, will be safely released following the collection of important data like measurement, gender and a small genetic sample for DNA analysis.’

Dr Vinay Udyawer, research scientist at AIMS, said the tagged sawfish data will be collected and used to better understand the movements of the species, including their use of near-and-offshore habitats.

‘This will aid in the overall understanding of these protected and endangered species, and importantly can assist in developing improved management.

‘Sawfish species have been prioritised for protection and there is a lack of information on adult movements. By tagging 6 adult Green or Largetooth sawfish we hope to fill gaps of knowledge,’ said Dr Udyawer.

The objective of the project is to tap into the knowledge of professional fishers’ to inform research and management of sawfish (Pristis spp.) and river sharks (Glyphis spp.). The project focuses on fishing grounds of northern Australia, including areas in and adjacent to the North Network of Australian Marine Parks.

This project is a partnership involving Northern Territory Seafood Council (NTSC), Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS), the Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University (CDU) and Parks Australia.

This Our Marine Parks Grant project received grant funding from the Australian