$20K Reward Offered in Endangered Sawfish Case

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is investigating the death of an endangered smalltooth sawfish near Key West, Florida. A $20,000 reward has been offered for information leading to successful prosecution.

Multiple witnesses reported a sawfish that appeared to be unhealthy and struggling to swim, ultimately beaching itself on a sandbar. Federal law enforcement officers responding to the scene discovered the sawfish missing its rostrum— its saw-like snout.

On Jan. 31, 2024, the animal was found along a shallow flat oceanside of Geiger Key, near Key West. Officials believe the rostrum was removed between the evening of Jan. 30 to the morning of Jan. 31. NOAA is asking for any information about the person(s) who caused injury to the sawfish and/or removal of the rostrum.

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is offering $20,000 for information leading to a criminal conviction or the assessment of a civil penalty. Call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964. Tips may be left anonymously, but you must include your name and contact information to be eligible for the reward.

They are seeking information leading to the:

  • Successful identification and/or
  • Successful prosecution for the person(s) responsible and/or
  • Arrest, conviction, or civil penalty assessment.

Smalltooth sawfish are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Once abundant in the Southeast, they are now only found off the coast of Florida, especially southwest Florida where sawfish give birth. They were the first marine fish to receive federal protection as an endangered species in 2003. Under the Act, it is illegal to catch, harm, harass, or kill an endangered sawfish. It is also unlawful to possess, sell, carry, or transport sawfish or parts of sawfish—such as the rostrum. While some fishermen catch sawfish as bycatch, they can follow safe handling and release guidelines to quickly and safely release incidentally captured sawfish.

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