Public outreach is a crucial component of our project that’s investigating the use of Tampa Bay by smalltooth sawfish. Outreach and education are necessary to effectively educate the public about endangered smalltooth sawfish, discourage illegal practices, and promote the conservation of the species. Outreach allows us to raise awareness about the possibility of interactions with sawfish, promote safe viewing and handling and release guidelines, and increase the voluntary reporting of encounters.
We are employing a variety of methods to get this messaging out and to collect data on any encounter records of sawfish sightings/captures. We are conducting direct outreach to the public through presentations, seminars, and booths at expos and events. We are distributing rack cards for display at dive shops, tackle stores, bait shops, marinas, boat rental facilities, tourist information centres, boating stores, and other related outlets. We are regularly searching social and traditional media, using a Google News alert, and submitting a monthly “Sawfish News” article to several print and online magazines, blogs, newspapers, and newsletters to gather information about recent sawfish encounters.
And, in collaboration with the U.S. Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Team, we developed permanent signage to install at boat ramps, fishing piers, and marinas. With recent funding from Save Our Seas Foundation and NOAA Fisheries Protected Resources Division, we have printed and are starting to deploy these metal signs throughout Florida.
In the coming years and with additional funding, we hope to print and install these signs throughout the entire historic range of smalltooth sawfish, from Texas to North Carolina. Details of sightings and catches of sawfish help us to monitor the population and track the recovery progress.
You can share your information by calling 844-4-SAWFISH (844-472-9347) or visiting www.SawfishRecovery.org.