I recently heard a great story from Doug Bournique who is executive vice-president of the Indian River Citrus League (http://ircitrus.wpengine.com). He told me he accidentally stepped on a sawfish! Doug is very vocal about “leaving a legacy” for the Indian River Lagoon. He advocates at government meetings for the reconnection of the waters of the North Fork of the St Lucie River and the St Johns River, as well as “water farming.” He grew up along our Treasure Coast and loves fishing, especially in the area of Sewall’s Point.
Doug was excited to see a sawfish and I was excited to hear about it. Seeing an endangered sawfish is a “good sign” for the river.
I have written about sawfish before, and recently I came across the photo at the top of this post in my mother’s book “Stuart on the St Lucie.” This time, with Doug’s story in mind, I looked at the photo a little differently.
It is a curious photo, isn’t it?
The “boys” all dressed up in coats and ties, the younger one on the far right, hand on hip, gazing to the horizon like a Norman Rockwell painting….The gigantic, contoured, muscular, sawfish hanging from a hook like a piece of meat in a butcher shop….in 1916 a common nuisance perhaps. Today an endangered species…
The photo says a lot about people, about Florida’s history, about humankind, about culture, about sportsmanship, and also about how times and perceptions change…
All sawfishes are now critically endangered. Scientists say they don’t reach sexual maturity until maybe 12 or 14 years old. Their reproduction number increase is very slow like many sharks to which they are related. The are nocturnal. They are remarkable and ancient. They are awesome. They have been overfished.
What if we could find a way to use the sawfish to protect the Indian River Lagoon? What if we could use it as an “endangered species”? This may be difficult as they adapt and can live in both salty and fresh water…
“Single species management” is taking a beating lately as we know. The Cape Sea Side Sparrow, the Everglades Snail Kite, the Florida Panther….Many say when you manage an ecosystem, especially water, for a single species, it is at the expense of all the other animals in the eco-system. Of course the animal we are always most concerned about is really ourselves. It’s hard to give anything up when you at the top of the food chain….
But that is why being human is so different from being a dinosaur. We can think. We can reason. We can dream. If we want to, we can save the sawfish and the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon..let’s pick up our sword and win!