The Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition has announced today that angel shark populations are fully protected in the Canary Islands, through inclusion on the Spanish Endangered Species List.

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Canary Islands, 6 June, 2019. The Angelshark (Squatina squatina), was formerly common across the Atlantic coasts of Europe and Africa, including the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. Over the last 100 years, they have undergone dramatic declines, but the Canary Islands remains a unique stronghold for this species, where Angelsharks are still regularly sighted in large numbers. Protection of Angelsharks in the Canary Island archipelago is of vital importance to ensure the survival of this species. The Angelshark is classified as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. Two other Critically Endangered species are present in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea but have not yet been documented in the Canary Islands.

After several months of work preparing technical reports in collaboration with the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition, three species of angel shark (Squatina squatina, as well as S. aculeata and S. oculata) have been included in the Spanish Endangered Species List for Canary Island waters, under the category of “in danger of extinction” (the highest category within this legislation).

This protection is in addition to an existing European Union (EU) fisheries regulation which prohibits targetting, retention, trans-shipping or landing of Angelshark (S. squatina) for all EU and third country vessels fishing in EU waters (Council Regulation (EU) No 2019/124). Any species included in the Spanish Endangered Species List will have full protection; any action performed with the purpose of killing, capturing, or disturbing Angelsharks; as well as destruction or deterioration of Angelshark habitat and breeding areas; or processing, selling, transporting, trading or exchanging live or dead Angelsharks is prohibited.

"On behalf of the Angel Shark Conservation Network (ASCN), we are delighted with this important announcement, after working with government officials for a number of years. We hope that in due course the protection will be extended to encompass all angel shark populations found in Spanish waters, not just those in the Canary Islands, as reflected in our original proposal" comments Àlex Bartolí, from Submon.

"This is the best news for this species and for all the people who dedicate their efforts to better conserve angel sharks. This new level of protection will enable us to continue our research to better understand the ecology and biology of this species in its unique stronghold of the Canary Islands. All the information for the proposal was developed in collaboration with a number of key stakeholders (divers, recreational fishermen and researchers) who we would like to thank for their important efforts to make this a reality," adds Dr. David Jiménez Alvarado, Co-Leader of Angel Shark Project: Canary Islands

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