Managing mangroves and MPAs for Colombia’s largetooth sawfish

  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2021
  • Active
Project type
  • Conservation

Fabio is working for mangroves and towards an MPA by restoring native species, collecting plastic waste and demarcating important coastal areas. All this, in a bid to bring to life a comprehensive strategy to save largetooth sawfish off the coast of Colombia. Fabio will also be training indigenous personnel and publicising the project at education centres. He hopes this will bring new attention to the important biodiversity, including sawfish, of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the coast of the Arahuac indigenous territory, in the Caribbean Sea of Colombia.

Managing mangroves and MPAs for Colombia’s largetooth sawfish

Fabio Cuello Mercado

Project leader
About the project leader

I am a marine biologist from Colombia, an early-career conservationist and manager of the Fundesabanas corporation. This organisation is currently working with the coastal communities of Magdalena to promote the creation of marine protected areas in territories historically affected by violence and drug trafficking. We engage mainly with the Arahuac indigenous communities, who live at the base of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. We have drawn up a conservation plan for the largetooth sawfish in national waters, developing a comprehensive strategy based on education, monitoring, conservation, sustainability and communication. We are also looking for...

PROJECT LOCATION : Colombia, Tayrona Park
Project details

Ethno-program for the protection of the largetooth sawfish in Colombia

Key objective

Creation of a marine safety area for the Largetooth sawfish (pristis pristis), in Colombia, through the completion of the declaration of a protected marine area of 18Km2, free of unsustainable fishing techniques.

Why is this important

The conservation challenge of this project is to change the unsustainable traditional fishing techniques of the coastal communities of the target territory, for sustainable techniques to reduce the main threats to the target species: incidental fishing, use of static nets and concave hooks. Educational awareness strategies will be necessary, accompanied by sanctions, with established deadlines, given the urgency of conservation of our fish, due to the critical level of threat it has.


This project is based on three scientific components:

  1. Conservation plan for largetooth sawfish (pristis pristis), in Colombia. This study was implemented by our organization and is an adaptation of the “Base Document of the Global Strategy for Fish Conservation”, of the IUCN and the conservation objectives of the Colombian government. In this document, a diagnosis of the conservation status of the target species is carried out, threats are identified and the coasts with the highest concentration of our sawfish are identified, to prioritize the areas that need protection. In turn, a robust educational strategy is proposed that seeks to strengthen the conservation capacities of the Arahuac indigenous community, coexisting with our fish, to reduce artisanal fishing with unsustainable methods, such as the use of static meshes y concave hooks.
  2. Sawfish: a global strategy for conservation, This study is carried out by SSC-IUCN and recommends the creation of marine protected areas and closed seasons in ecosystems and habitats of the target species. They also insist on an educational strategy aimed at coastal communities in contact with sawfish.
  3. This project also has original components: we are committed to the creation of a 18Km2 marine protected area and promote ecotourism in the area, and our strategy will lay the foundations to achieve a transition from an extractive marine economy to a sustainable marine economy, based in ecotourism income. Marine tourism activities and services will be practiced by the indigenous community.


To guarantee the sustainability of our proposal, we will create an indigenous environmental corporation, whose corporate purpose is the conservation of the sawfish, led by the 10 most outstanding young people from the training sessions. Financing of this corporation will be achieved through:

  1. Small donations per website.
  2. Participation in international grants.
Aims & objectives

Project objectives

  1. Increase the conservation status of the Largetooth sawfish through the mitigation of the main threats off the Colombian coast.
  2. Declaration of a protected marine area of 18Km2, focused on the conservation of the Largetooth sawfish, with the establishment of fishing restrictions (closed season).
  3. Strengthen the conservation capacities of the Arahuac indigenous community, co-inhabitants with our target species, to reduce harmful anthropic activity.
  4. Diagnose the conservation status in the target territory for the Largetooth sawfish, to promote conservation and research on the project’s target species and habitat.
  5. Communicate the activities and results of the project, in order to stimulate investment in conservation in the Arahuac indigenous territory.