Angel Shark Conservation Project

Angel shark in the Canary Islands

Why we are there

The angel shark (Squatina squatina) was once common throughout Europe’s seas, but is now classified as extinct from much of its former range. The angel shark is a large flat-bodied shark, which uses its broad pectoral fins to excavate depressions in the sand to ambush unsuspecting fish that swim within reach. They 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 ZSL is working with Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), to protect the last remaining population stronghold in the Canary Islands. 

Angel shark vote and NEW funding

Between the 22 September and 6 October 2014 the angel shark project was in a public vote to win funding from the European Outdoor Conservation Association. Unfortunately we came second place, but we would like to thank the 3,947 people who voted for angel sharks - we really appreciate your support. The winning project in the nature category was restoring habitat to protect the Gangetic river dolphin.

However, we have just found out that the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund are going to support our angel shark project. The conservation grant will be used to work with the sportifishing community in the Canary Islands to protect the last angel shark stronghold. We would like to thank the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund for their generous support. 

Working with the sportfishing community

Angel sharks in the Canary Islands are under threat from lethal handling techniques used by the rapidly expanding sportfishing community (e.g gaffing and long periods out of water). ZSL will work closely with the sportfishing community in the Canary Islands, designing a best practice guide to catch and release to enable sportfishers to conserve this charismatic shark. This will be part of a wider community engagement project and selected sportfishers will be recruited as ‘citizen scientists’ and trained to tag angel sharks, revealing the movements of this secretive species around the archipelago for the first time. See how ZSL's angel shark project is progressing

Report angel shark sightings 

In April 2014, ULPGC launched Poseidon, a citizen science programme for the public to submit sightings of marine species in the Canary Islands. A major focus of Poseidon is to collect sightings of angel sharks, to identify important habitats for the species 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 it will be used to inform effective conservation and management of the species. Please submit your angel shark sightings to the Poseidon website.

Angel shark project partners

How you can help?

ZSL is an international charity dedicated to the conservation of animals and their habitats. Support us with a regular donation today.

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angel shark swimming

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

  • Angel shark (Squatina squatina)

People involved

Joanna Barker is the Project Manager of the Angel shark project

Partners

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

Kindly funded by:

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