On a recent tour up on the Cobourg Peninsula while cruising on the Marine Park we came across a large sawfish which had become entangled in an abandoned fishing net. We found him (her?) swimming in the shallows and devised a plan to catch and release him safely…
First our skipper Hugh cast a fishing line and managed to catch him first go - tidy work Captain! From there we managed to pull him up on the beach a little where we could more safely attempt to cut off the netting.
It was an awesome experience to save such an incredible animal and watch it swim off safely!
The challenge at all times was to keep well away from his deadly saw-like beak (rostrum) so the team was on high alert. After attaching a knife to a long poll we delicately cut off the netting bit by bit making sure not to slice his beak at the same time. After some good team work (with help from our guests) we released him to fight another day.
The Sawfish is a member of the ‘Pristidae’ family and is a protected species throughout the Northern Territory. They use there uniquely constructed beak to find food by using it as a digging tool and to impale fish by thrashing it around violently. They also use their beak to protect themselves from predators such as sharks (& humans).
Sawfish can weigh up to half a ton and grow up to 7 metres in length! At Cobourg when the water is clear you can sometimes see them in the shallows below camp foraging for food.
This was another great tale I’m sure one of our guides will enjoy telling for many years to come. A good result for all involved and thanks to Des for sending through these pictures.
David, our guide, said "It was an awesome experience to save such an incredible animal and watch it swim off safely!".