Florida has its fair share of endangered species, as well as hungry fisherman ready for their next big catch.
One Florida fisherman may have learned the hard way what happens when you kill one of the state’s endangered species.
On Friday, Chad Ponce, 38, of Jacksonville, pleaded guilty to killing a smalltooth sawfish. Ponce is facing a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison and a $50,000 fine, U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez said in a statement.
A sentencing date has not yet been set.
On July 18, 2018, Ponce was seen removing the rostrum from a live 12-foot smalltooth sawfish with a power saw aboard his fishing vessel off the coast of Ponte Vedra, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Florida Wildlife Commission findings.
The fish’s rostrum, or nose extension, is used to find and disable its prey. It cannot survive without it.
The sawfish has been recognized as an endangered species since 2003. It is part of a family of rays characterized by a long, arrow, flattened rostrum lined with sharp teeth.
They are among the largest fish and are found in meaningful numbers only in the southeastern United States, mostly on the southwest coast of Florida.
Sawfish are generally harmless to humans, although they can cause serious injury with their saws if threatened.