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, Squatina squatina (Angelshark), Squatina aculeata (Sawback angelshark) and Squatina oculata (Smoothback angelshark), 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.
GLOBAL ID GUIDE
There are currently 23 accepted valid species of angel shark in the family Squatinidae. Many of these species have overlapping ranges and similar morphology, meaning they can be challenging to distinguish from one another. The Shark Trust has developed a guide to angel shark identification to help improve accuracy of species identification and reporting, and therefore aid conservation efforts.
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.
MEDITERRANEAN ANGEL SHARKS: SUB-REGIONAL ACTION PLANS
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.
THREATS TO ANGEL SHARKS
Habitat degradation through pollution, anchor damage, coastal development and marine infrastructure, particularly at critical angel shark areas (areas containing essential features necessary for the conservation of angel sharks 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. Intensification of demersal fishing practices over the last 100 years is the major factor identified in the decline of angel sharks across their range. These slow-growing and late-maturing species are still accidentally caught in the recreational fishing sector and in some commercial fishing gear.
Habitat and Pollution
Habitat degradation through pollution, anchor damage, coastal development and marine infrastructure, particularly at critical angel shark areas (areas containing essential features necessary for the conservation of angel sharks 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.
Intensification of demersal fishing practices over the last 100 years is the major factor identified in the decline of angel sharks across their range. These slow-growing and late-maturing species are still accidentally caught in the recreational fishing sector and in some commercial fishing gear.
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.
Sign up for email updates
Celebrate International Angel Shark Day on the 26th June every year. A day for all 23 species of angel sharks. Search #AngelSharkDay on social media to hear about work from researchers and conservationists in different regions.
In 2020, 2021 and 2022 we held the first three international #AngelSharkDay events, where we took to social media to share facts, resources, interviews with researchers and conservationists who work with angel sharks, and a live Twitter Q&A.
On Sunday 26th June 2023 we’ll be celebrating the 4th International #AngelSharkDay – keep an eye out for updates and subscribe to our eBulletin here.
Get involved by hashtagging #AngelSharkDay and please keep sharing any resources, experiences, publications or facts you may have stored up!
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 (ULPGC)
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.
Leibniz Institute for the Analyses of Biodiversity Change (LIB)
Leibniz Institute for the Analyses of Biodiversity Change (LIB) is one of the largest natural history research museums in Germany. The museum has earned its reputation as a leader in the documentation, research, and interpretation of biodiversity.
WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative
Leading change for the Mediterranean Sea. By bringing together the best of WWF’s marine expertise and engaging with a variety of partners, we bring innovative approaches to marine resource management and biodiversity protection to secure a sustainable future to Mediterranean’s wildlife and people.
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 new report published by WWF, the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries in Split, and the Angel Shark Project takes a look at how angel sharks might still be using the Adriatic. The data gathered will act as a baseline for future work in Croatia, and includes six key recommendations to improve understanding and conservation of angel sharks in the region (view the full report here and summary here).
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.
- Best Practice to Release Angelsharks if Accidentally Caught (English | Español | Eλληνικά)
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 | Español | Eλληνικά)
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.
- Saving the last Angel Sharks of the Mediterranean Sea: X-ray report on spatial protection for Angel Sharks with a focus on the Adriatic Sea (English)
Developed by WWF and the Angel Shark Project to improve understanding and conservation of angel sharks in Croatia.
- Angels of the Adriatic – summary report (English)
A report published by WWF, the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries in Split, and the Angel Shark Project takes a look at how angel sharks might still be using the Adriatic.
- Strengthening angel shark conservation in the Southern Aegean Sea (English)
Report developed by iSea and Shark Trust to identify critical areas where targeted action should be taken to conserve the three species of angel shark found in the region.
- A guide to angel shark identification (English)
A global angel shark identification guide, developed by the Shark Trust
- Noviello et al. 2021. Modelling Critically Endangered marine species: Bias-corrected citizen science data inform habitat suitability for the angelshark (Squatina squatina)
- Ellis et al. 2020. Angel sharks (Squatinidae): A review of biological knowledge and exploitation
- Jiménez Alvarado et al. 2020. Investigation of juvenile angelshark (Squatina squatina) habitat in the Canary Islands to recommend measures for protection and management
- Lawson et al. 2020. Extinction risk and conservation of critically endangered angel sharks in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea
- 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
- Mediterranean Angel Sharks: SubRegional Action Plan (SubRAP) – GSA 21 (Southern Ionian Sea) (English | Arabic)
- Mediterranean Angel Sharks: SubRegional Action Plan (SubRAP) – GSA 22-23 (Aegean Sea and Crete) (English | Turkish | Greek)
- Mediterranean Angel Sharks: SubRegional Action Plan (SubRAP) – GSA 24 (Northern Levant Sea) (English | Turkish)
- Mediterranean Angel Sharks: SubRegional Action Plan (SubRAP) – GSA 25 (Cyprus – Northern Cyprus) (English | Turkish)
- Mediterranean Angel Sharks: SubRegional Action Plan (SubRAP) – GSA 25 (Cyprus – Republic of Cyprus) (English | Cypriot Greek)
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