Florida Man Pleads Guilty to Killing, Cutting Nose Off Endangered Sawfish

The Jacksonville man is facing a year in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Sawfish are revered as some of the most majestic saltwater fish in the United States, largely because of their prehistoric appearance, but also because of their endangered-species status.

So, when eyewitnesses saw Chad Ponce of Jacksonville, Florida, using a power saw to remove the extended nose from such a rare fish, they immediately called it in.

The St. John's County Sheriff's Office received the tip in July 2018 of a man aboard a shrimping trawler who had cut the nose off of a live sawfish. When Florida Wildlife Officers stepped aboard Ponce's boat, he admitted to accidentally catching the sawfish in his nets, but claimed to have released it back into the waters near the coast of Ponte Vedra Beach.

Once the incident made it all the way to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (because sawfish are endangered), NOAA officers tracked down eyewitnesses, one of whom had video footage of Ponce pulling a sawfish between 12 and 14 feet long into his boat.

Multiple witnesses recalled then seeing Ponce take a power saw to the rostrum, effectively removing it.

Ponce is facing a year in prison and $50,000 fine for killing the fish, and pleaded guilty to removing nose with a saw while fishing in a boat, according to court documents obtained by First Coast News.

Sawfish are incredibly large fish, growing over 17 feet in length, and have been on the endangered species list since May 1, 2003.

We'll keep you updated here at Wide Open Spaces as this story continues to develop.