MARCH 2007 PRIMEFACT 7 SECOND EDITION
Species presumed extinct in NSW
Illustration by Pat Tully
Threatened Species Unit
Fisheries Conservation and Aquaculture BranchPort Stephens Fisheries Centre
Green sawfish, also known as narrow-snoutsawfish or dindagubba, are a large species ofray with a shark-like body and an elongated,tooth-studded snout (the ‘saw’). They wereonce widely distributed in the northern IndianOcean, South and South-East Asia and aroundnorthern Australia and have been recorded asfar south as Jervis Bay. However, the specieshas suffered a complete population decline asa result of fishing and accidental capture inprawn trawl and gill nets. The last confirmedsighting of green sawfish in NSW was in 1972from the Clarence River at Yamba. Their largesize and saw mean that they easily becomeentangled in nets. The dangerous flailing sawmakes them difficult to remove, and so theyrarely survive capture.Green sawfish were listed as an endangeredspecies in October 2000. However, in 2007 theFisheries Scientific Committee reviewed theconservation status of the species andsubsequently determined green sawfish to bea
species presumed extinct
Green sawfish have a shark-like body and aflattened head with a narrow blade-like snoutstudded with 24-28 pairs of ‘rostral teeth’. Theyare greenish brown or olive in colour on theupper surfaces and pale whitish below. Greensawfish can grow to at least 5 metres inAustralian waters.Sawfishes are similar in appearance tosawsharks, but key differences include the factthat sawfishes have the gill openings on theunderside (not the side) of the head, and donot have a pair of barbels (or whiskers) on thesnout.
Habitat and ecology
Green sawfish live on muddy or sandy-mudsoft bottom habitats in inshore areas. Theyalso enter estuaries, where they have beenfound in very shallow waters.
They feed on slow-moving, shoaling fish suchas mullet, which they stun with sideswipes ofthe snout and are also thought to use their sawto sweep other prey, such as molluscs andsmall crustaceans, out of the sand and mud.
Green sawfish probably don’t reach sexualmaturity until they are at least 2-3 metres inlength. Like all sharks and rays, they haveinternal fertilisation and give birth to a limitednumber of live young.