Angel Shark Conservation Network

A community working to better protect angel sharks

 

Angel Shark Conservation Network

A community working to better protect angel sharks

 

Angel Shark Conservation Network

A community working to better protect angel sharks

WHAT ARE ANGEL SHARKS?

Angel sharks are flat-bodied sharks which can grow up to 2.4m in length and are normally found submerged in sandy habitats in coastal waters. Angel sharks (Squatinidae) rank as the second most threatened family of elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays) in the world. Three species are found in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea, all listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and are the current focus of our efforts given their threat status:

Angelshark

Squatina squatina

Smoothback Angelshark

Squatina oculata

Sawback Angelshark

Squatina aculeata

Once widespread throughout coastal areas of these regions, angel sharks have suffered steep declines throughout their historic range. Information on Sawback Angelshark and Smoothback Angelshark is severely lacking, however the Canary Islands have been identified as a unique stronghold for the Angelshark, as this species is still regularly sighted.

CONSERVATION ACTION

Since 2016, the ASCN Partners and a wide range of collaborators have focused on developing strategic conservation planning documents for angel sharks.

A number of Action Plans have been developed at different geographical scales via multidisciplinary workshops. All these documents sit underneath the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Angel Shark Conservation Strategy, and aim to identify the key actions needed to overcome major threats to angel sharks in each specific region.

The ASCN actively encourages individuals or organisations across the range to get involved in delivering the Action Plans in collaboration.

EASTERN ATLANTIC AND MEDITERRANEAN ANGEL SHARK CONSERVATION STRATEGY

Vision:
Angel sharks in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean are restored to robust populations and safeguarded throughout their natural range

MEDITERRANEAN ANGEL SHARKS: REGIONAL ACTION PLAN

Vision:
Mediterranean angel sharks are restored to robust populations fulfilling their ecological roles in healthy ecosystems

Arabic

ANGEL SHARK ACTION PLAN FOR THE CANARY ISLANDS

Vision:
Angelsharks in the Canary Islands are abundant and protected in their unique stronghold

WALES ANGELSHARK ACTION PLAN

Vision:
A thriving population of Angelsharks in Wales

English

AEGEAN SEA AND CRETE: SUB-REGIONAL ACTION PLAN

Vision:
To facilitate further coordinated action by engaging regional stakeholders, including governments and industry, in these priority regions for angel sharks

If you have supplementary information about angel sharks, please complete the questionnaire.

THE THREAT

Collect data on Angelshark ecology to inform conservation

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  • Angelshark distribution: Divers and fishers record Angelshark sightings on the sightings map. Citizen science data will be regularly analysed by the ASP team.
  • Angelshark movement and site fidelity: investigated through visual ID tagging, acoustic tagging at key hotspots and genetic research.
  • Angelshark abundance: Divers complete organised Count the Angels events around the Canary Islands each year.
  • Critical habitats: possible Angelshark nursery areas and mating areas are identified and monitored through regular underwater visual surveys and visual ID tagging.
  • Angelshark reproduction and juvenile ecology: Confirmed Angelshark nursery areas are studied using mark-recapture tagging surveys and genetics to understand juvenile Angelshark growth rates, site fidelity and philopatry.

Reduce mortality and disturbance

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  • Working closely with sportfishing companies to reduce Angelshark mortality in the Canary Islands (see our recreational Best Practice guide).
  • Completing research to understand the impact of the recreational fishing sector on Angelsharks.
  • Working with key commercial fishers to reduce incidental catch of Angelsharks (see our commercial Best Practice guide).
  • Developing an Angelshark code of conduct to eliminate diving-related disturbance of Angelsharks.

Provide evidence and drive legislative change

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  • The Angelshark Action Plan for the Canary Islands was developed with local stakeholders to identify key actions needed to improve Angelshark conservation in the Canary Islands.
  • Provide information and work closely with local, national and European governments to improve the levels of Angelshark protection in relevant legislation.
  • Highlight important Angelshark habitats that would benefit from spatial protection.

Raise awareness of the importance of the Canary Islands for Angelsharks

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  • Raise awareness that the Canary Islands is the unique Angelshark stronghold in Europe.
  • People in the Canary Islands are aware of the status of Angelsharks and support conservation.
  • Visitors understand the importance of the Canary Islands to Angelshark conservation.

Develop the Angel Shark Conservation Network

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  • In 2016, the Angelshark Action Plan for the Canary Islands and Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Angel Shark Conservation Strategy was created in collaboration with the IUCN SSG, Shark Trust, Submon and a network of stakeholders.
  • The Angel Shark Conservation Network was developed to allow information-sharing, networking and developing Europe-wide initiatives to conserve the angel shark.

Please help us protect Angel Sharks in the Canary Islands, East Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea by reporting your sighting to the Angel Shark Sightings Map. This information will be shared amongst the Partners and Collaborators to better understand and conserve Angel Sharks in the region.

ANGEL SHARK CONSERVATION NETWORK (ASCN)

The success of the Action Plan and Strategy is ultimately down to the individuals and organisations working together towards the common Visions.
All interested parties are invited to join the ASCN, help to deliver the objectives laid out in each document and receive updates on angel shark conservation news.

The purpose of the ASCN is to:

Facilitate dialogue and information sharing on all matters concerning angel shark conservation, including collaborative projects and joint funding opportunities.

Host an email-group to send updates, providing information on activities in progress or completed as part of the Action Plan or Strategy.

Ensure that consistent and clear messages regarding angel shark conservation is delivered to the wider community.

Encourage a core group of individuals/organisations to attend a follow-on Angel Shark Conservation Workshop in 2020

Join our multidisciplinary Angel Shark Conservation Network (ASCN) and help us to protect these Critically Endangered sharks.

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INTERNATIONAL #ANGELSHARKDAY

Celebrate International Angel Shark Day on the 26th June every year. A day for all 22 species of angel sharks. Search #AngelSharkDay on social media to hear about work from researchers and conservationists in different regions.

In 2020 we held the first international #AngelSharkDay event, where we took to social media to share facts, resources, and interviews with researchers and conservationists who work with angel sharks.

Catch up on our posts by searching the hashtag #AngelSharkDay and please keep sharing any resources, experiences, publications or facts you may have stored up!

Throughout the day there was a series of talks from researchers and conservationists who are helping to better understand angel sharks. You can catch up on all the action via our YouTube channel.

Find out more about the event from our #AngelSharkDay ebulletin.

WHO’S INVOLVED

The following organisations work alongside a number of individuals as part of the ASCN.
The organisations in this list will be updated quarterly with additional members.

PROGRESS TO DATE

The Angel Shark Conservation Network (ASCN) is working with partners to deliver actions set out in the Action Plan and Strategy. Major achievements are shown below. Full details of angel shark conservation news and research are sent to the ASCN through quarterly e-bulletins.

NEW STUDY ON ANGELSHARK NURSERY AREAS IN THE CANARY ISLANDS

ASP:CI research has identified one confirmed and 13 potential Angelshark nursery areas around the Canary Island archipelago, with data used to develop a Guidance Document to better protect important habitats of this Critically Endangered species.

ASCN RESEARCH ON ANGEL SHARK EXTINCTION RISK

Research led by the ASCN Partners to assess angel shark extinction risk across the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea was published in ICES Journal of Marine Science. Results show that Sawback Angelshark range has declined by 51%, Smoothback Angelshark range by 48% and Angelshark range by 58%.

FULL PROTECTION FOR ANGEL SHARKS IN THE CANARY ISLANDS

The Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition have announced today (6th June 2019) that angel shark populations are fully protected in the Canary Islands, through inclusion in the category “in danger of extinction” on the Spanish Endangered Species List. This is of vital importance to enable continued survival of angel sharks in their unique stronghold.

IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group Red List Assessments

The IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group is currently undertaking a global reassessment of all sharks, rays, and chimaeras for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species through a series of regional workshops. So far we have successfully completed 4 workshops and assessed 357 species, with plans for 7 more workshops throughout 2019/2020 to assess the full ~1,250 chondrichthyan species.

DEVELOPMENT OF ANGEL SHARK SIGHTINGS MAP (Objective 5.1 of the Action Plan)

A collaborative sightings map was developed in December 2016 to have a central coordinated system to gather sightings of angel sharks across their range.

NEW PAPER PUBLISHED ON ANGELSHARK ECOLOGY IN THE CANARY ISLANDS (Objective 5.1 of the Action Plan)

The Angel Shark Project used data collected through POSEIDON (a citizen science program to collect marine biodiversity data in the Canary Islands), to identify the distribution patterns, habitat use and population structure of the Angelshark (Squatina squatina) in its last stronghold.

NEW PROJECT TO BETTER UNDERSTAND ANGELSHARK POPULATIONS IN WELSH WATERS (Objective 1.4 and Objective 2.1 of the Strategy)

The Angel Shark Project and Natural Resources Wales are asking fishers across Wales to report any accidental captures of Angelsharks and follow best practice guidance to ensure Angelsharks are safely return to the water unharmed.

RESOURCES

  • Best Practice to Release Angelsharks if Accidentally Caught (English | Español)
    Developed by the Angel Shark Project and recreational fishers in the Canary Islands to reduce Angelshark mortality after accidental capture.
  • Angelshark Sea Angling Advisory (English)
    Developed by the Shark Trust to show protected status of Angelsharks in UK waters
  • Angelshark Commercial Fisheries Advisory (English | Spanish | French | Dutch | Turkish | Greek)
    Developed by the Shark Trust to show protected status of Angelsharks
  • Angel Shark Project: Canary Islands Leaflet (English | Español)
    Information leaflet on Angel Shark Project: Canary Islands and how you can be involved
  • Welsh fisher information leaflet (English | Cymraeg)
    Shows how to safely release Angelsharks if accidentally caught and where to report your accidental capture
  • Convention of Migratory Species Concerted Action For the Angelshark (English | Español | Français)
    Outlines priority actions to be completed by the parties to improve protection of Angelsharks across their range
  • Results of sportfisher client questionnaires in the Canary Islands (English)
    The Angel Shark Project completes questionnaires with clients of sportfisher charter boats in the Canary Islands to evaluate impact of the fisher engagement work.
  • Angelshark Code of Conduct for SCUBA & Snorkel (English | Cymraeg)
    Shows best practice SCUBA & snorkel procedure if you’re lucky enough to encounter an Angelshark in Wales
  • Guidance Document for Juvenile Angelshark Habitat in the Canary Islands (English | Español)
    Developed by the Angel Shark Project to better protect important habitats of this Critically Endangered species.

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    Photos used on this webpage c. Carlos Suarez and Michael J Sealey; video used on this webpage c. Felipe Ravina Olivares