Freshwater sawfish (Pristis microdon) is listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) with the annotation “for the exclusive purpose of allowing international trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable aquaria for primarily conservation purposes”.
At the time of listing (2007), the Australian Parliament Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommended the Australian Government monitor and assess the impact of trade in freshwater sawfish to determine whether the current listing, with annotation, provides sufficient protection for the species. Since the time of listing, a number of studies have been completed. Based on these studies and other new information, a revised non-detriment finding for freshwater sawfish has been developed.
2011 non-detriment finding
Prior to approving an export permit CITES requires that, where the export of an Appendix I or II listed species is proposed, the State of export must determine that the activity will not be detrimental to, or contribute to trade which is detrimental to, the survival of the species (known as a ‘non-detriment finding’). This obligation is implemented through the EPBC Act (paragraph 303CG (3)(a)).
A 2011 non-detriment finding document for freshwater sawfish has been prepared by the department and reviewed by the CSIRO. The document informs decisions on applications under the EPBC Act for permits to export freshwater sawfish. The document will replace a previous non-detriment finding document produced in 2007, which no longer reflects the current state of understanding of the status of freshwater sawfish.
The 2011 non-detriment finding draws on the most current research and understanding for this species in Australian waters, including the outcomes of a Freshwater Sawfish Expert Review Committee. These studies point to the need for a precautionary approach to be applied, as is required under the EPBC Act. There is clear evidence that that the species is at risk, and that it is not possible to determine with a reasonable level of certainty that harvest for the purposes of international trade would not be detrimental to the survival or recovery of the species. The impact of other cumulative pressures on populations such as commercial, illegal, Indigenous and recreational fishing and habitat modification must also be considered.
The Government will continue to monitor the appropriateness of the 2011 non-detriment finding in the context of any developments of the conservation and management situation for freshwater sawfish.