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:
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.
Intensification of demersal fishing practices over the last 100 years has been the major cause of angel shark decline; they are still accidentally caught in commercial & recreational gear. Habitat degradation through pollution, anchor damage, coastal development and marine infrastructure, particularly at critical angel shark areas (e.g. nursery grounds, aggregation areas etc.). Disturbance of angel sharks in shallow coastal areas by beach users and divers – whether intentional or accidental. Lack of appropriate legislation to protect angel sharks or poor enforcement of existing legislation. Lack of data on life history, distribution and habitat requirements to inform conservation measures. Little awareness of the presence of angel sharks and their Critically Endangered status.
Habitat and Pollution
Intensification of demersal fishing practices over the last 100 years has been the major cause of angel shark decline; they are still accidentally caught in commercial & recreational gear.
Habitat degradation through pollution, anchor damage, coastal development and marine infrastructure, particularly at critical angel shark areas (e.g. nursery grounds, aggregation areas etc.).
Disturbance of angel sharks in shallow coastal areas by beach users and divers – whether intentional or accidental.
Lack of appropriate legislation to protect angel sharks or poor enforcement of existing legislation.
Lack of data on life history, distribution and habitat requirements to inform conservation measures.
Little awareness of the presence of angel sharks and their Critically Endangered status.
In 2016, two Angel Shark Conservation Workshops were completed to identify the key actions needed to be taken to overcome the major threats to angel shark populations. A multifaceted group of divers, fishers, scientists, NGOs, shark experts and government officials attended the workshops to develop two key documents.
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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.
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.
Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
The Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) is one of the leading Spanish universities and is a leader in the use of new technologies and research related to marine and maritime areas. It is comprised of 153 research groups covering all fields of knowledge.
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.
A collaborative sightings map was developed in December 2016 to have a central coordinated system to gather sightings of angel sharks across their range.
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.
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.
- 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)
Developed by the Shark Trust to show protected status of Angelsharks in UK waters
- Angel Shark Project Leaflet (English | Español | Welsh)
Information leaflet on the Angel Shark Project 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
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
- Escanez et al. 2018 First case of Morphological Abnormality in Common Angelsharks (S.squatina) from the Canary Islands
- Bunholi et al. 2018 The fishing and illegal trade of the angelshark: DNA barcoding against misleading identifications
- Holcer & Lazar. 2017. New data on the occurrence of the Critically Endangered Common Angelshark, Squatina squatina, in the Croatian Adriatic Sea
- Fitzpatrick et al. 2017. The complete mitochondrial genome of the Critically Endangered Angelshark, Squatina squatina
- Meyers et al. 2017. Population structure, distribution and habitat use of the Critically Endangered Angelshark in the Canary Islands
- Zava et al. 2016. Occurrence of juveniles Squatina oculata Bonaparte, 1840 in the Strait of Sicily (Central Mediterranean)
- Fortibuoni et al. 2016. Common, rare or extirpated? Shifting baselines for common angelshark, Squatina squatina, in the Northern Adriatic Sea (Mediterranean Sea)
- Escánez Pérez et al. 2016. Estudio del primer área de cría del Angelote (Squatina squatina) descubierta en Canarias.
- Dulvy et al. 2016. The conservation status of sharks, rays and chimeras in the Mediterranean Sea
- Nieto et al. 2015. European red list of marine fishes
- Cavallaro et al. 2015. Finding of a rare Squatina squatina along the Tyrrhenian coast of the Strait of Messina and its maintenance in an aquarium
- Basusta 2015. New records of neonate and juvenile sharks (Heptranchias perlo, Squatina aculeata, Etmopterus spinax) from the North-eastern Mediterranean Sea
- Akyol et al. 2015. Occurrence and Biological Observations on Angel shark Squatina squatina from the Turkish Waters (Eastern Mediterranean)
- Dulvy et al. 2014. Extinction risk and conservation of the world’s sharks and rays