MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There is now a $25,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for the illegal killing of six critically endangered smalltooth sawfish in Everglades City in Collier County.
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement announced a $20,000 reward on Thursday which was later boosted by $5,000 by the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit conservation organization.
According to the agency, two of the sawfish had their rostra, or saws, removed, while another had been stripped of its meat.
Their carcasses, plus those of two bonnethead sharks, were found strewn along the causeway between Everglades City and Chokoloskee Island.
A sawfish biologist from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will perform a necropsy on the animals to try to determine the cause of death.
Smalltooth sawfish are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
Smalltooth sawfish resemble sharks in appearance but are actually large, bottom-dwelling rays. Their name refers to their long, saw-like bill, which is full of razor-sharp teeth.
They were once found in the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to Florida and along the East Coast from Florida to North Carolina. Their population has dwindled to an estimated 5% of its former range.
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Today, the species is generally only found off the coast of Florida, especially southwest Florida where sawfish give birth. They reproduce every other year and give birth to just 7-14 young. The loss of these six animals is nearly equivalent to one mother’s entire litter.
If you know anything about this incident, call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously.