A dead sawfish found on Belmunda Beach, Mackay on Monday November 16 2020. Picture: Contributed.
A dead sawfish found on Belmunda Beach, Mackay on Monday November 16 2020. Picture: Contributed.

Group slams ‘barbaric’ laws after shark mutilation

MARINE conservationists have slammed the "cruel" and "horrendous" death of a sawfish found on a Mackay beach.

The adult sawfish was found washed up on Belmunda Beach at Seaforth on Monday with its snout, or rostrum, hacked off.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society is now calling on Queensland Fisheries to hold those responsible to account and urgently upgrade protections for the "critically endangered" species.

"Sawfish rostra have been deliberately removed by fishers if the species gets tangled in gillnets, an indiscriminate fishing method still used in Queensland which is well known to entangle and kill threatened species like sawfish, dugongs, turtles and dolphins," AMCS fisheries spokesman Simon Miller said.

"Trophy hunters have also been known to remove the distinctive rostra for trophies or curios which are then kept or sold.

A 2m sawfish washed up on Nightcliff Beach, Northern Territory with its rostrum detached in 2019. Picture: Supplied
A 2m sawfish washed up on Nightcliff Beach, Northern Territory with its rostrum detached in 2019. Picture: Supplied

"Sawfish use their rostrum for detecting and catching prey such as other fish and crustaceans, as well as for defence, so removing them is a death sentence if it survives the amputation.

"This would be a horrendous and cruel death for the sawfish and highlights the need for better protection of vulnerable and endangered species."

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Mr Miller said fishing within the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef should be gold standard instead of resulting in cruel deaths of iconic Australian species.

"Barbaric practices like this could be stamped out with independent monitoring from cameras or independent observers on fishing boats," Mr Miller said.

Constable Matt Cornish with two sea turtle shells and a sawfish rostrum seized during a drug bust at a Queensland residence in 2019. Picture: Stewart McLean.
Constable Matt Cornish with two sea turtle shells and a sawfish rostrum seized during a drug bust at a Queensland residence in 2019. Picture: Stewart McLean.

"Australia is considered a lifeboat for sawfish, which have been wiped out in the waters of many other countries.

"We are urging the Queensland Government to reduce the number of gillnet licences on the Great Barrier Reef through a $10m structural adjustment package for the commercial fishing industry and provide protection to threatened species in habitats critical to their survival."

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Earlier this year, three dugongs along with a Queensland groper were found dead in the Wide Bay Burnett region, understood to have been linked to the use of gillnets and shark nets.


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