Searching for sacred sawfish in Ghana

Working with local fishing communities and government to find and protect the last sawfishes in Ghana.

Project aim

To uncover areas where sawfishes still exist in Ghana; to find out what dangers they face in Ghanaian waters and raise awareness amongst fishing communities and local government of the importance of protecting and valuing need to protect sawfishes.

About sawfishes

The sawfish is a unique relative of sharks and rays with a long 'saw' attached to its head, which it uses for hunting the fish it eats. Sawfishes can grow up to 7 metres in length! There used to be many populations of sawfish throughout West Africa, and in some West African countries they were considered as symbols of strength and good fortune. Out of all the sharks and rays throughout the world, the sawfish family, which consists of 5 species, is considered to be the family most likely to become extinct. That means we need to act fast to protect these amazing fishes, before it is too late.

About the project

Most African populations of sawfish have disappeared over the past 20 to 30 years. We don't know why - it may be because of overfishing, or because the mangroves and rivers where sawfishes used to live have been destroyed or polluted. We urgently need to protect the few remaining sawfish populations in African waters, but in order to do that, we first need to find out where those sawfish populations are! This project aims to work with fishermen and women, and the local wildlife and fisheries authorities in Ghana, to find out more about sawfishes in Ghana - where they used to live, whether they still exist in Ghanaian waters and whether they are important part of local culture or traditions - through interviews and surveys of fish landings sites and markets. We will provide training and educational materials to the Ghanaian Department of Fisheries and the Ghana Wildlife Division, to encourage them to collect information on sawfish catches and trade in fins and other parts of sawfishes, as well as other sharks and rays. Within the fishing communities, we will provide posters about sawfishes, and talk with community leaders to raise awareness of the need to protect these rare and wonderful fishes.

What will the funds be used for?

The funds raised by this campaign will be used for costs associated with running the project in Ghana. Specifically, the funds will go towards:

- Salaries for local staff for the time they contribute to the research;

- Travel, food and accommodation costs of the team as they visit coastal communities to collect information;

- Basic equipment for local staff, to encourage data collection: tape measures, clipboards, sawfish identification guides, GPS units;

- Printing of educational posters to distribute to fishing communities and to government staff.

Who are we?

This project will be run by Protect Africa's Sawfishes, in collaboration with the Ghana Wildlife Division. Protect Africa's Sawfishes was set up in 2012 by Ruth Leeney, with the aim of finding any remaining sawfish populations in African waters, and working with local communities and government organisations to protect those populations. To date, Protect Africa's Sawfishes has run research and education projects on sawfishes in five African countries - The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mozambique and Madagascar - and has partnered with NGO Planeta Oceano to support sawfish research in Peru and Ecuador.

More information on Protect Africa's Sawfishes can be found at the project's facebook page: www.facebook.com/ProtectAfricasSawfishes