Conditions were great this week, right up to the weekend. As most of us saw, some pretty nasty winds and rain came in. There were even thunderstorm warnings in the Keys.
Before it got ugly, we had a big group of divers from Fort Lauderdale. Aquatic Ventures brought about 20 divers down to see our famous Florida Keys reefs and wrecks. Plus, they got a treat: we came across a very rare, endangered 12-foot smalltooth sawfish.
According to the FWC, sawfish are unique fish with a long, hedge trimmer-like “saw” sticking out of their head. This is called their podium, and it has “teeth” on either side of it. Sawfish can use their saw to lift the bottom to reveal hidden prey or to chop sideways into schools of fish to catch injured prey.
They are related to sharks and rays and are born about 60 cm long. They can grow up to 17 feet tall.
Historically, these fish were often seen in Florida. All over the state you’ll find old photos of marinas showing fishermen with lots of huge sawfish. Unfortunately, they have become rare to see and even in danger of extinction. This is because they often inadvertently become entangled in fishing gear when their saws become entangled. Sawfish rostrums were also popular trophy fishing items and they were caught for this as well.
They produce few young. Therefore, since their depletion, it has been difficult to recover their population numbers. If sawfish are accidentally caught while fishing, FWC should be contacted and the endangered species should be released unharmed.
Because of all this, these majestic creatures are very rarely seen by divers. This makes it even more special when we see one. A colleague of ours, Tony Young of Forever Young Charters, saw an incredible school of over 20 sawfish on the same day! This is unheard of and we all feel very lucky to have seen them.
Next week’s dive report
Next week’s forecast looks very favorable for ocean activities. This should remain relatively consistent throughout the week. Next Sunday forecasts for strong winds.
On Saturday we welcomed a large group of about 20 coral planters. They have helped us get new, endangered corals back on the reef. With a bit of luck, good conditions and many volunteer hours these will continue to grow into the reefs of the future that can support amazing species such as sawfish.
All our monitoring shows that the hard work of I.CARE and all its community partners is paying off. The new corals are blooming!
Sawfish sightings are so rare that there is a hotline to report them (1-844-472-9347 / 1-844-4 SAW FISH). Scientists and researchers focused on the conservation and protection of sawfish are investigating reported sightings in hopes of learning more about this incredible fish.
I.CARE coral plant trips will take place this week with Key Dives.