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Lopez-Angarita, Juliana; Camilo Cubillos-M, Juan; Villate-Moreno, Melany; Del Cid, Annissamyd; Diaz, Juan M.; Cooke, Richard; Cagua, E. Fernando and Tilley, Alexander (2021): Bright spots for research and conservation of the largetooth sawfish Pristis pristis in Colombia and Panama. In: Endangered Species Research, Vol. 46: pp. 147-160

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Sawfishes are considered one of the most endangered families of fishes globally. Their diadromous ecology and vulnerability to fishing nets have brought most populations to the brink of collapse. Conservation of surviving populations is hindered by limited knowledge of historic and contemporary distribution. Colombia and Panama are 2 of 22 countries considered as high priority for the development of species-specific national legal protection of the Critically Endangered largetooth sawfish Pristis pristis. To construct a baseline for the temporal and spatial distribution of the largetooth sawfish in Colombia and Panama, we collected historical records from museum databases and literature over the past century, analysed available small-scale fisheries landings databases, and conducted interviews with fishers in 38 locations. We found 248 records of sawfish occurrences across both countries between 1896 and 2015, with 69% of the records from before 2000. The declining frequency of observations was corroborated by fishers, who reported fewer sawfish sightings and catches over the last 20 yr. Results from a regression model of total length and observed date suggest that the maximum size of observed sawfish individuals has also declined over time. We use location data from sawfish records to identify potential 'bright spots' that may foster remaining populations of sawfish. The locations of sawfish records were broadly characterised as remote areas with high mangrove forest cover. Given the length and cultural diversity of the Pacific coastlines of Colombia and Panama, our findings provide important guidance to implement rapid conservation and fisheries interventions in these priority areas and highlight geographical gaps in knowledge for further work.

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