In August 2018, Sharks And Rays Australia and the Cairns Museum jointly organized a sawfish afternoon at the museum, for National Science Week. Kier Shorey from ABC Far North radio ran a story, and Daniel Bateman wrote an amazing article for the Weekend Post. I am sure that their contributions had lots to do with the huge success of the event, so we would like to thank them for playing such a vital role in helping us reach the public!
More than a month later, we finally finished sampling all the saws from people who responded to the event! This clearly shows that the response was overwhelming and the information collected exceeded our expectations by far!
Here are some of our stats: the Facebook event was viewed 6700 times, and we had 21 people who signed up for it on Facebook, while 100 people were interested. The actual turn out was about 40 people and most of them also went to Dr Wueringer’s talk.
We also had – and this is the most exciting part for SARA – the opportunity to take DNA samples from 48 saws, including 11 saws that were donated to SARA. Moreover, five sightings of live sawfish were submitted to us.
All the DNA samples will be sent to Annmarie Fearing at the University of Mississippi, who will use them for her Masters research project. Many of you met her during the event. The samples will help to identify if and when the genetic diversity held by different species of sawfish decreased. The project also aims to identify which regions globally hold the highest genetic diversity of the different species of sawfish. These regions will then be named as hotspots and should thus be a conservation priority.
For the saws that were donated to SARA we have big plans as well, which we are currently discussing with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Queensland. While we use some saws for our school visits, we want to see the other saws on display in tourist information centres, museums and pubs in Far North Queensland and the Cape York region. Displaying these saws together with information on the conservation of sawfish and where to submit sightings means that these former trophies can become active contributors to sawfish conservation in Queensland!
So with this I would like to thank everybody who made this event possible and who responded to our call and brought their saws in. I would also like to thank Grace McNicholas from York University for helping with the sampling and Annmarie Fearing for involving SARA in her project.
This project is ongoing, so if you have a saw at home that we hve not sampled yet, then please get in touch!