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ANGEL SHARKS: CHAMPIONING SOME OF THE OCEAN'S MOST VULNERABLE SPECIES
There are thought to be 23 species of angel shark making up the family Squatinidae, half of which are listed in a threat category on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The slow growth and demersal nature of angel sharks leaves them especially vulnerable to inshore fishing activities, consequently many species in this family have suffered steep population declines and now face a significant risk of extinction. Most 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 Shark Trust worked to secure domestic protection for the Angelshark in English and Welsh waters under the Wildlife & Countryside Act in 2008 and subsequently under the Scottish Elasmobranch Protection Order; it is also a Prohibited Species under the Common Fisheries Policy. While the Angelshark is now heavily protected across much of its current range, there is little protection for the other species of angel shark present in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean.
**angel shark vs Angelshark
‘angel shark’ (as two words) refers to multiple species in the family Squatinidae
‘Angelshark’ (as one word) is used for species common names.
EASTERN ATLANTIC & MEDITERRANEAN ANGEL SHARK CONSERVATION STRATEGY
There are three species of angel shark present in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean - the Angelshark (Squatina squatina), Sawback Angelshark (S. aculeata) and Smoothback Angelshark (S. oculata) – all of which are listed as Critically Endangered. Most information is known regarding the ecology, distribution and declines of the Angelshark, with little information available for the other two more elusive species.
The Shark Trust has joined forces with the Angel Shark Project, IUCN Shark Specialist Group, and Submon to develop a comprehensive Conservation Strategy for the three species present in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. This Strategy provides a framework for improved protection and serves as a catalyst for action, bringing together regional experts in order to increase capacity to deliver the identified conservation goals and objectives. The Vision of this Strategy is that: Angel sharks in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean are restored to robust populations and safeguarded throughout their range.
ANGELSHARK ACTION PLAN FOR THE CANARY ISLANDS
The Angelshark was historically common over large areas of the Northeast Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Seas; however their range has drastically contracted during the past century, mainly due to the intensification of fishing. There are increased reports of sightings from Cardigan Bay, Irish Sea, but otherwise only occasional reports are now received from the Eastern and Central Mediterranean, Adriatic Sea and Celtic Sea. The Canary Islands now offer the only known location where this species can be regularly encountered, but action is still required.
In 2016, the Shark Trust teamed up with the Angel Shark Project (a collaboration between ZSL, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig), IUCN Shark Specialist Group, and Submon to develop an Angelshark Action Plan for the Canary Islands which was launched towards the end of the year. This regional Action Plan outlines a number of goals and objectives necessary to protect this species in its unique stronghold, with a Vision that Angelsharks in the Canary Islands are abundant and protected in their unique stronghold.
ANGEL SHARK CONSERVATION NETWORK (ASCN)
The same partners involved in the development of the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Angel Shark Conservation Strategy and Angelshark Action Plan for the Canary Islands have launched a collaborative Angel Shark Conservation Network. This network aims to connect individuals and organisations working to protect angel sharks.
►Visit www.angelsharknetwork.com in order to find out more and become part of the ASCN, submit angel shark sightings and download additional resources.
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