Sawfishes are among the world’s most endangered marine vertebrates. Human impacts have contributed to their extinction from many coastal waters, and debates about their past presence and possible extinction in the Mediterranean have carried on for decades. This research team reconstructed the history of the occurrence of two sawfish species in the western Mediterranean between 1576 and 1959, using records accessed through GBIF among other sources. By suggesting that both species went extinct in the Mediterranean in the 1960s or 70s, the results challenge current assumptions on sawfish ecology and biogeography and offer new options for sawfish conservation in the Atlantic, while highlighting the importance of historical analyses for reconstructing ecosystem baselines and setting recovery targets.
On a related policy note, a December 2014 final rule that listed five species of sawfish as endangered under the United States Endangered Species Act cited GBIF-mediated data in its findings.