Sawfish at Underwater world

In April, 2013 Sealife Mooloolaba announced the arrival of Black and Decker, two new sawfish from Melbourne aquarium. The male and female have joined  Makita in the new ocean walk-through, giving visitors an opportunity to see these fascinating critically endangered animals up close.  

These new residents are part of a project to increase numbers of the species.

Sawfish are a type of ray and related to sharks. Found in both marine and fresh water these predatory fish derive their name from their long snouts (rostrum) with sharp points.  Overfishing and habitat change have caused major declines in sawfish stocks globally. Fine electromahnetic sensors along a sawfish rostrum help it to detect movement. This is especially useful for hunting prey in murky water, such as tidal creeks in the Kimberley. In addition, the sensors may enable sawfish to detect prey buried in mud such as prawns and crabs.

Sawfish use their rostrum to club and slash prey, including other fish, before consuming it whole. Some have been found to have catfish spines embedded in their rostrum and fish scales impaled on the rostral teeth. Rostra may also be used in defence against giant sharks that prey on them.

Sawfish are a traditional food source for the Aboriginal people living along the Fitzroy River. The species features in stories and beliefs. Bunula people call freshwater sawfish “galwanyi”; the Gooniyandi people call it ” wirridanyniny”; the Nyikina “pial pial” and the Walmajarri people “wirridani”. A traditional way of catching them and other species by the Nyikina and Walmajarri people is to put bark from a freshwater mangrove tree in a waterhole. This removes the oxygen from the water causing the fish to float and become easy to catch.

Sealife is a ten minute walk from Northwind, and a great place for families to visit to learn about sea creatures, how scientists are learning about sea creatures and how we can help endangered species survive and prosper for future generations