International Sawfish Day feature story: Andrea Kroetz, Assistant Scientist

International Sawfish Day (ISD) is an annual event that is held every October 17th, with the aim of raising awareness of these endangered animals and the threats they face. Research that supports the recovery efforts of the endangered small sawfish is done by Andrea Kroetz, an Assistant Scientist at CIMAS, and her story is featured below. This news story was first published as part of the Faces of the NOAA/Southeast Fisheries Science Center series on October 13, 2021

Meet Andrea Kroetz, Assistant Scientist

As part of the Faces of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center series, meet Dr. Andrea Kroetz.

Andrea Kroetz handling juvenile smalltooth sawfish

Dr. Andrea Kroetz prepares to release a juvenile smalltooth sawfish in Everglades National Park after collecting valuable biological information that is used to inform recovery actions for the species. Handling endangered species, such as smalltooth sawfish, is a permit-authorized activity. Credit: NOAA Fisheries (ESA permit 22078).

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. 

How did you come to work at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center?

Andrea Kroetz measuring a hammerhead shark


I first joined the Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Panama City on a postdoctoral Research Associateship awarded by the National Research Council. Now, I continue work at the science center as an Assistant Scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.   

Pictured: Andrea Kroetz measures a great hammerhead shark from the side of a research vessel in offshore waters of the Florida Keys. Collecting data from highly migratory species provides valuable information that can be used in stock assessments to assess the status of shark populations. Credit: Michael Scholl (SAL-21-1345-SRP).

International Sawfish Day is celebrated on October 17, 2021. What do you want readers to know about smalltooth sawfish?

Andrea Kroetz measuring a hammerhead shark


Smalltooth sawfish is one of five species of sawfishes worldwide—all are listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. It is the only species currently found in United States waters, primarily in south Florida. Although populations have declined from historical levels, the research of the Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Implementation Team indicates that we are starting to see signs of recovery for the species. 

A fun fact about sawfish: during birth, they are born rostrum (saw) first. They also have fully developed rostral teeth that are covered by a hardened gelatinous material to protect the mother during the birthing process. This extremely cool fact was revealed when we witnessed the first documented wild birth of smalltooth sawfish in 2016!

Pictured: Andrea Kroetz handling an endangered smalltooth sawfish after capturing the animal using scientific gillnets deployed from standup paddleboards in a very shallow (less than 2 feet) lagoon in Florida Bay, Everglades National Park. Sawfish can easily become entangled in gillnets and is an effective and safe way to capture these animals for scientific sampling. Credit: NOAA Fisheries (ESA permit 22078).

What do you like most about your position?

I enjoy the diversity of the research in which I participate. I am fortunate to be a primary investigator on field research in Everglades National Park and around Panama City, Florida. I have the opportunity to collaborate on a multitude of projects with fantastic colleagues tagging sharks, rays, and endangered species, many of which few people are fortunate to ever encounter. I also participate in stock assessments that evaluate the status of shark populations, an important part of what we do at the science center. It is rewarding to see data that I collect in the field be used for assessments and management decisions—it brings everything full circle.     

What do you like to do outside of work?

Andrea Kroetz on the summit of Mount Agung, Bali, Indonesia


Outside of work, I enjoy spending time in nature. My favorite ways to relax and enjoy life include hiking, scuba diving, kayaking, camping, gardening, and traveling around the world! 

Pictured: Andrea Kroetz on the summit of Mount Agung, Bali, Indonesia at dawn. Photo courtesy of Andrea Kroetz.

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