USM professor partners with local museum and aquarium for International Sawfish Day festivities


HATTIESBURG, Mississippi (WHLT) – International Sawfish Day is celebrated annually on October 17 to focus on the need for sawfish conservation. The greatest concern for these types of rays is entanglement in fishing nets and changes in their habitat, forcing the species on the endangered list.

Sawfish use their saw extension to detect the heartbeats of prey in the water. They will then attack the fish and swim to the bottom, then eat them. They also use their saw extension to defend themselves from predators like bulldog sharks and crocodiles. A sawfish can be up to seven meters long, which is bigger than a great white shark.

In the United States, the sawfish is historically found in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Carolinas. Today the central area is along Florida. As far as Mississippi, sawfish have been spotted in the Mississippi Sound. Recent encounter reports indicate that the fish have been spotted on Deer Island, Bear Island and the Pascagoula River.

University of Southern Mississippi (USM) associate professor of biology Dr. Nicole Phillips will be at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Sciences in Jackson on October 16 and at the Mississippi Aquarium in Gulfport on October 17 to discuss the fish.

Phillips is vice president of the Sawfish Conservation Society. She explains that International Sawfish Day provides an opportunity to celebrate the highly endangered but little-known sawfish.

“Most people have heard or know something about whale sharks, white sharks and manta rays. Fewer people know sawfish exist or are extremely threatened, ”said Phillips. “There are also still a lot of unknowns regarding their status in many countries and their biology / ecology. At ISD, we focus on sawfish to educate people around the world about these amazingly unique stingrays. “

Saturday’s events will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. Sunday festivities at the Mississippi Aquarium will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Dr. Lauren Fuller, education manager at the Mississippi Aquarium, notes that Aquarium staff are keen to educate the public about sawfish and their need for conservation.

“Guests will celebrate International Sawfish Day by participating in educational activities while exploring our habitats at the Mississippi Aquarium,” Fuller said. “They will learn local sawfish research from the scientists themselves, including reporting protocols. Children can also participate in fun games and activities.


About Carlos V. Mitchell

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