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Jacksonville man faces possible jail time, fine for killing fish

Chad Ponce, 38, pleaded guilty Friday to killing an endangered sawfish. He faces one year in jail and $50,000 fine, according to U.S. Attorney's Office
Credit: NOAA
Photo of an endangered sawfish.

A Jacksonville man could spend a year in jail and be hit with a $50,000 after killing a sawfish. Chad Ponce pleaded guilty Friday to killing the endangered animal, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez.

Ponce was seen July 18, 2018 removing the rostrum, or saw, from a live 12-foot smalltooth sawfish with a power saw aboard his fishing vessel off the coast of Ponte Vedra, the news release states.

This case was investigated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Florida Wildlife Commission.

Sawfish are generally harmless to humans, although they can inflict serious injury with their saws if threatened. The rostrum of the sawfish is used by the animal to locate and disable its prey, and is believed to carry sensory cells that assist it in orienting itself to time and location.

Sawfish are among the largest fish, with some species reaching lengths of up to 17 feet, the news release states. The fish are found in meaningful numbers only in the southeastern United States, primarily the southwest coast of Florida (smalltooth), and in Australia (largetooth). At one time, both species were found worldwide, throughout tropical and subtropical regions in coastal marine and estuarial waters, as well as freshwater rivers and lakes. In Florida, the smalltooth sawfish is dependent on estuarial mangrove waters on the southern and southwest borders of the state. It is there that they breed and give birth. The sawfish has been recognized as an endangered species since May 1, 2003, the news release states.