Angel Shark Conservation Project

Angel Shark in sand

Why we are there

The European angel shark (Squatina squatina) was once common throughout Europe’s seas, but is now classified as extinct from much of its former range. They are dorso-ventrally flattened sharks and spend most of their time on the sea floor, making them particularly vulnerable to fishing practices such as trawling and bottom longlining. The widespread use of these fishing practices in European waters has caused angel shark populations to dramatically decline over the last 100 years.

Angel sharks were listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List in 2006 and urgent action is required to protect the last remaining population stronghold in the Canary Islands. 

Conserving the European angel shark

Very little is known about the abundance and distribution of angel sharks in the Canary Islands. ZSL is working closely with the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) and the local diving community to gather vital ecological data to inform effective conservation and management (see POSEIDON programme).

Recent scoping work has suggested that angel sharks in the Canary Islands are under threat from lethal handling techniques (e.g gaffing and long periods out of water) used by the rapidly expanding sportfishing community (recreational anglers and sportfishing charter companies). ZSL aims to work with the sportfishing community and explain how small changes in handling practice can dramatically increase angel shark survival.

See how ZSL's angel shark project is progressing.

POSEIDON programme

ULPGC has developed a web-based tool to record public sightings of marine biodiversity in the Canary Islands: ePOSEIDON. Angel sharks have been chosen as a priority species and the Angel Shark Conservation Project was created as a sub-project of the POSEIDON programme. The data gathered by ePOSEIDON will be used to identify important angel shark habitats, e.g. nursery and foraging areas, and also answer basic ecological questions, such as when the breeding season is. This is the first time that data has been collected for angel sharks and will provide vital insight into angel shark life history.

Angel shark project partners
Angel Shark in sand

Public sightings of angel sharks

Divers in the Canary Islands can now report sightings of angel sharks using our POSEIDON tool

Project information

Key species

  • European angel shark (Squatina squatina)

People involved

Joanna Barker is the project manager of the Angel shark project

Partners and sponsors

  • Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
  • IUCN Shark Specialist Group

Kindly funded by:

  • Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund
  • Fundación Biodiversidad (Spanish Government - Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment)