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The Angelshark Project
Championing one of the ocean’s most vulnerable species
A recent analysis of the threat of extinction for all sharks, skates and rays, revealed that large flat-bodied coastal species are at greatest risk - this includes the angelsharks**.
There are 22 species of angelshark making up the family Squatinidae, half of which are listed in a threat category on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Their life-history and body shape makes them incredibly vulnerable to inshore fishing activity (particularly trawling), and many species of angelshark now face a significant risk of extinction in the wild. The majority of the remaining species are listed as either Data Deficient or Not Evaluated – however, once these have been more comprehensively assessed, the number of threatened species could actually be much higher.
The Angelshark (Squatina squatina) is believed to be the only species occurring in British waters. The abundance of this species has declined rapidly over the past 50 years, going from a common demersal predator in the Northeast Atlantic to regionally extinct throughout much of its former range. Indeed, the species is considered locally extinct in the North Sea and is now only sporadically reported from other coastlines, with sightings mainly from Cardigan Bay or the Bristol Channel.
The Shark Trust worked to secure domestic protection for S. squatina in UK waters under the Wildlife & Countryside Act in 2008 and subsequently under the Scottish Elasmobranch Protection Order; it is now one of the most heavily protected sharks in the Northeast Atlantic and cannot be landed under any circumstances. Today, in the face of population declines, the Canary Islands represent the key remaining stronghold for S. squatina - although urgent action is still required to further protect them.
The Shark Trust is working with the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and the Angel Shark Project (a collaboration between the Zoological Society of London, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig) to develop an Angelshark Action Plan for the Canary Islands (for S. squatina), along with an Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Conservation Strategy. This wider strategy will focus on three Critically Endangered species of angelshark found in European waters: the Angelshark (S. squantina), the Smoothback Angelshark (S. oculata), and the Sawback Angelshark (S. aculeata). We will be collating contemporary and historic sightings data with a view to proposing that this subset of species are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). Overall, this project aims to secure the future of angelsharks across their natural range.
If you have sightings and records to share (whether diving or recreational angling), please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
**angelshark vs Angelshark
‘angelshark’ (lower-case) refers to all species within the family Squatinidae, while
‘Angelshark’ (upper-case) refers solely to Squatina squatina.
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