, Volume 73, Issue 4, pp 391-402

Distribution of sawfishes (Pristidae) in the Queensland Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia, with notes on sawfish ecology

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Synopsis

Pristis microdon, P. zijsron, P. clavata and Anoxypristis cuspidata are distributed throughout the Queensland section of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia. In a survey of the four species, Anoxypristis cuspidata was the most abundant and was recorded in both the inshore and offshore set net fisheries. The size distribution and catch locations of A. cuspidata suggest that the inshore area to a depth of 10 m may be the preferred habitat for juveniles of this species, while adults primarily occur offshore. Pristis microdon, P. zijsron and P. clavata were recorded only in the inshore fishery with catches dominated by immature animals. Pristis microdon was caught in the inshore fishery late in the monsoonal wet season (February to April) and inhabited both freshwater and estuarine environments. Pristis zijsron occurred only on the sand and mud flats outside river mouths whilst P. clavata inhabited both the sand and mud flats and upstream estuarine habitats. Observations on reproductive staging and the capture of neonate specimens suggest that in all four pristids, pupping occurred through the wet season until the beginning of the dry season in May. A seasonal set net closure for the barramundi, Lates calcarifer and shark fisheries, which has been in place since 1980 in Queensland Gulf waters, therefore offers a measure of protection to breeding female sawfish and their offspring.