A long awaited delivery

A long awaited delivery

by Nikki Biskis


Our cases are settling into their new homes quite nicely. With over 20 completely built and in various stages of delivery, we should have these displays up and interactive by the time roads open up after Far North Queensland’s wet season.

Since SARA began collecting sightings from the public in 2016, we have received over 140 sawfish saws in donation. After being DNA sampled and morphometric data taken, the saws are destined for display cases, with a select few reserved for educational talks and trainings. With funding from Queensland’s Chief Scientist’s Advanced Queensland Citizen Science Initiative and Save Our Seas Foundation, we are able to put up a case in almost every roadhouse between Cairns and the tip of Cape York. The goal of these cases is to inform communities about how to safely release sawfish from fishing gear and report sightings to us. This sightings information is used in collaboration with many other sawfish groups across Australia in develop status assessments and conservation measures.

During a trip up to Laura in March 2021, Barbara and Nikki from Sharks And Rays Australia delivered the first 5 display cases to their final locations and Nikki got to finally meet the people she’s been talking with for over a year. As always, the country is gorgeous, but people are what make experiences special. Everyone so far has been incredibly supportive of the mission to save sawfish and excited to have a case up on their wall.

The extra 40 kms to Hann River were well worth it. Rob, Renee and Ozzy (their emu!!) welcomed us out of the rain and we found an amazing spot for the display – front and centre. It’s one thing to see cases printed and built, but another to witness them being mounted for all the visiting recreational fishers to see. Finally, we headed back down to Cairns, stopping in Laura for a sawfish training with the Laura Indigenous Land and Sea Rangers and school visit – and leaving them with the final case at the Laura Roadhouse.

Over the next two months, it only gets better. Display cases have been sent all the way up to Bamaga to be exhibited at the Bamaga Tavern, out to the Daintree Discovery Centre, and even to the Northern Gulf Natural Resource Management Georgetown office. If you’re heading up to Far North Queensland for fishing – you can’t miss them! A special thanks goes out to our intern Maddi Jones for building the last round.

Then, an opportunity like no other! Barbara and Michelle flew to Adelaide at the end of April to present a case to the Rodney Fox Shark Museum, which will open within the next 6 weeks. Fellow elasmo lovers are sure to hear about the opportunity to send in their sightings now.

There is still much to come. We’re partnering with Indigenous Land and Sea Rangers to bring cases to the land where sawfish are still seen, and to the Traditional Custodians that watch over them. In addition, we are currently working on designs for our larger saws – some up to 1.5 m – for museums and wildlife centres in Queensland, including Australia Zoo, the Karumba Barra Discovery Centre, Sea World Gold Coast, and Kronosaurus Korner. After all, for animals this charismatic, theses saws deserve to be seen in the correct context, better some catch on the wall of the pub. They are a piece of Australian history, and hopefully an example for how citizen scientists came together to keep them a living icon. We cannot wait to see the sighting reports that come through as result of this project, bringing crucial data to building a more complete picture of sawfish species distributions in Australia.

If you are in Australia and would like to donate your sawfish saw to SARA, or report a sighting, head over to www.cytags.com.

Building cases

Building cases

Our Display Cases are underway

by Nikki Biskis

After almost two years in the making, SARA’s sawfish display cases are officially being assembled.

It started as an idea in mid 2018 – after we received almost 150 sawfish saws as donations by Queensland Fisheries and members of the general public. How to use them? In March 2019, Barbara and I talked for the first about her vision of displaying these saws all over Far North Queensland, warning fishers of the negative impact of bycatch, and teaching people how to release sawfish safely.

SARA secured funding from the Queensland Chief Scientist’s Citizen Science grant and in October 2019, I joined on site as an intern. With a preliminary display design, I began to reach out to locations all over the Cape. After securing further funding from Save Our Seas Foundation, we began ordering frames and preparing designs to accompany the saws, aiming for delivery by April 2020.

And then everything shut down – the frames were stuck in the USA, I was stuck in New Zealand, and Cape York went into military enforced lockdown until July! The project was put on hold.

After 9 months of what felt like the longest year ever, borders reopened and the team was finally reunited. Unfortunately, this amount of time exposed to Cairns humidity meant that the case backings were mouldy. At first we were disappointed, but we soon realized our luck. After all, if they moulded in Cairns, they didn’t stand a chance further north! With all hands on board, and my partner helping, we varnished the 27 backing boards, to ensure humidity resistance to keep our precious saws safe for the next 10+ years in their final destinations.

The extra 9 months allowed me to design the inside of the display cases, with Barbara and me sometimes spending hours to get a sentence right. We also incorporated feedback from colleagues. The end result is 27 completely unique cases, each telling a story about the saws inside and the animals they belonged to.

With the first background being printed as I write this, I cannot wait to start sending these cases out. Make sure to look out for them in info centres, roadhouses, council offices and many more iconic locations on your next trip to FNQ!

This post was originally written for the Save Our Seas Foundation. Find the original post here