ANGEL SHARK PROJECT: CANARY ISLANDS

Secure the future of the Critically Endangered Angelshark in its unique stronghold of the Canary Islands

 

ANGEL SHARK PROJECT: CANARY ISLANDS

Secure the future of the Critically Endangered Angelshark in its unique stronghold of the Canary Islands

 

ANGEL SHARK PROJECT: CANARY ISLANDS

Secure the future of the Critically Endangered Angelshark in its unique stronghold of the Canary Islands

 

ANGEL SHARK PROJECT: CANARY ISLANDS

Secure the future of the Critically Endangered Angelshark in its unique stronghold of the Canary Islands

IMPORTANCE OF THE CANARY ISLANDS FOR ANGELSHARKS

The Critically Endangered Angelshark (Squatina squatina), once common across the Northeast Atlantic including the Mediterranean Sea, is a dorsoventrally flattened shark that is normally found on benthic soft sediments.
After suffering widespread decline across its range over the last century, the Canary Islands have become their unique stronghold.

Introducing angel sharks:

The angel shark family (Squatinidae) are particularly susceptible to the combined impacts of fishing and habitat degradation, due to their coastal location and biology (large, flat-bodied animals with low reproduction rates). Three species of angel shark (Sawback Angelshark S.aculeata, Smoothback Angelshark S.oculata & Angelshark S.squatina) were once widespread throughout the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. Following decades of decline, only fragmented populations remain across their historic range. All are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and are part of the second most threatened family of sharks and ray in the world.

The Canary Islands act as a unique stronghold for one species, the Angelshark (Squatina squatina), which are regularly encountered by divers and fishers.

Have you seen an angel shark?

Help us better understand and protect angel sharks by reporting your sighting to the

Thank you for collaborating!

WHO WE ARE

The aim of the Angel Shark Project is to safeguard the future of Critically Endangered angel sharks throughout their natural range.

Angel Shark Project: Canary Islands:
A multidisciplinary programme under the umbrella of the Angel Shark Project , that collects ecological and population data whilst engaging with local communities, researchers and government to raise awareness and deliver conservation action. 
Aim: To secure the future of the Critically Endangered Angelshark in its unique stronghold

Angel Shark Project: Wales
Partnership project developed in 2018 to better understand Angelshark ecology in Wales.
Aim: To safeguard the Angelshark in Wales through fisher-participation, heritage and citizen-science.

OUR TEAM

The Angel Shark Project is a collaboration between three European Partners: The University of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria (ULPGC), the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig (ZFMK) and Zoological Society of London (ZSL). The Angel Shark Project: Canary Islands was established in 2013 and has grown into a network of collaborators, including researchers, recreational divers, conservation experts, photographers and videographers.

The core Angel Shark Project: Canary Islands team are:

Co-Founder and Co-Lead

Joanna Barker

ZSL

Co-Lead

Dr. David Jimenez Alvarado

ULPGC

Project Officer

Belen Caro

Seawolves

Project Officer

Michael J. Sealey

Independent researcher

ANGEL SHARK PROJECT: CANARY ISLANDS OBJECTIVES

Collect data on Angelshark ecology to inform conservation

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  • Angelshark distribution: Diving and sportfishing organisations show their clients how to 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 are identified and monitored through regular underwater visual surveys
  • 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 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.
  • 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 amongst divers, fishers and coastal communities that the Canary Islands is the unique Angelshark population stronghold in Europe.
  • The local population, expatriate population and visitors to the Canary Islands are aware of the status of Angelsharks and advocate for the conservation of Angelsharks in the region.
  • Visitors understand the importance of the Canary Islands to Angelshark conservation and choose recreational activities based on the minimal impact on Angelsharks.

Develop the Angel Shark Conservation Network

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  • Raise awareness amongst divers, fishers and coastal communities that the Canary Islands is the unique Angelshark population stronghold in Europe.
  • The local population, expatriate population and visitors to the Canary Islands are aware of the status of Angelsharks and advocate for the conservation of Angelsharks in the region.
  • Visitors understand the importance of the Canary Islands to Angelshark conservation and choose recreational activities based on the minimal impact on Angelsharks.

PROJECTS IN DETAIL

1 – CITIZEN SCIENCE AND WORKING WITH DIVERS

Within our tagging project divers are encouraged to submit encounters of tagged angel sharks into our database. This will let us know which individual was seen at a specific locality and island. The collection of these sightings is vital to identify key habitats for these species, also to answer basic ecological questions. Check out our interactive map, it provides a quick way for divers, fishers or other stakeholders to report their angel shark sighting both in the Canary Islands as well as the wider East Atlantic and Mediterranean region. 

We have engaged members of the diving community to register their encounters with Angelsharks on our online database, giving us information about the exact locality of the shark, the environmental conditions at this locality, and the individual’s size, sex and behaviour. These citizen scientists are constantly helping us to gather information across the entire archipelago and we are getting an idea about the current distribution patterns and the structure of the population. At the same time, we are raising awareness of the critical status of this shark and educating divers to have responsible encounters.

FUNDERS

PARTNERS

2 – ADULT ANGELSHARK ECOLOGY, MOVEMENT AND DISTRIBUTION

Limited understanding of adult Angelshark habitat use, movement and site fidelity is a major factor preventing effective species protection in the Canary Islands. We are working across the Canary Islands to understand Angelshark ecology through analysis of citizen science sightings, coupled with tagging and genetic analysis. Our aims of this research are to:

  • Determine the seasonal distribution, aggregation sites and breeding patterns of the Angelshark across the Canary Islands
  • Assess the population abundance and structure in the Canary Islands and the rest of its range.
  • Identify residency and movement patterns within and between islands via a cost-effective tagging program and genetic research.

This information should guide future decisions to overcome the main threats this species faces and guide the implementation of effective conservation measures and future management strategies.

VISUAL ID TAGGING


ACOUSTIC TRACKING IN LA GRACIOSA MARINE RESERVE


GENETICS


COUNT THE ANGELS


3 – IDENTIFY AND MONITOR POSSIBLE NURSERY AREAS

The aim is to study Angelshark nursery areas to secure their protection. Specifically, we are looking at the population size and structure, reproductive behaviour, growth rates as well as estimating the spatial distribution and habitat use of juvenile Angelsharks.

Researchers, students and volunteers conduct regular surveys at these nursery areas to tag juvenile Angelsharks and re-capture any sharks that have been tagged previously. The recapture of juvenile sharks gives us important information on their biology in the first stages of their life.

Lots of our effort focuses on studying the juvenile population of the beach of “Las Teresitas” in Tenerife, the very first confirmed Angelshark nursery area. It is a perfect laboratory for our research thanks to the density of sharks and the great conditions of this beach to carry out our work.

The Angel Shark Project has expanded this work by completing surveys across the archipelago to identify and investigate new Angelshark nursery grounds. This information will be used to prioritise areas for spatial protection.

FUNDERS

4 – WORKING WITH THE FISHING COMMUNITY

Angelsharks are a protected species and targeted fishing for them is illegal. However, sometimes Angelsharks are accidentally caught by both recreational and commercial fishers. This is why working with the fishing community is essential for the conservation of Angelsharks. Together we have developed a best practice guide to safely release accidental shark catches by recreation fishers, and we are currently working to expand these good practices to the commercial fishers around the Canary Island archipelago.

Fishers are also a great source of data, providing important information that contributes to our research. If you are a fisher in the Canary Islands or have been fishing in the Archipelago in the past, please take a minute to fill in our questionnaire

FUNDERS

5 – ANGEL SHARK PROJECT: WALES

Following an increasing number of Angelshark sightings along the Welsh coast in recent years, we have teamed up with ZSL and Natural Resources Wales to better understand and conserve Angelsharks in Welsh waters.

FUNDERS

RESOURCES

  • Angelshark Action Plan for the Canary Islands (English | Español)
    Identifies the key steps needed to secure the future of Angelsharks in the Canary Islands
  • East Atlantic and Mediterranen Angel Shark Conservation Strategy (English |Español | Francais)
    Highlights research gaps and opportunities to improve protection of angel sharks across their range
  • Best Practice to Release Angelsharks if Accidentally Caught (English | Español)
    Developed with recreational fishers to reduce Angelshark mortality after accidental capture.
  • Adult Angelshark Ecology Poster (English | Español)
    Find out how we study adult Angelsharks with tagging techniques
  • Juvenile Angelshark Ecology Poster (English | Español )
    Find out how we study Las Teresitas, the first nursery area discovered for Angelsharks in the Canary Islands
  • Angel Shark Project Leaflet  (English | Español)
    Information leaflet on the Angel Shark Project and how you can be involved
  • 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.

ASP:CI News and Quarterly Reports

Our Funders

CONTACT US



Photographs copyright Michael Sealey and Carlos Suarez, Oceanos de Fuego