Working together to save angel sharks

Joanna Barker

Joanna Barker, ZSL Europe Conservation Project Manager, blogs about organising an Angel Shark Conservation Workshop to safeguard the future of three Critically Endangered species.

Angel Shark
Angel Shark

There are moments when working as a conservation biologist where you feel an overwhelming sense of excitement when looking through your plans for the year. As such, 2016 is a very important and exciting year for the Angel Shark Project. Together with the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and Shark Trust, we are organising an Angel Shark Conservation Workshop in June to safeguard the future of three Critically Endangered angel sharks in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean Basin.

What is an angel shark?

Many people haven’t heard about the weird and wonderful family of angel sharks, let alone are aware that following decades of decline the three species found in European waters are now extinct from much of their former range. In 2014, the angel shark family (Squatinadae) were identified as the second most threatened of all the world’s sharks and rays. But there is hope. Just off the coast of Africa, lies an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean called the Canary Islands, where Angelsharks (Squatina squatina) can still be regularly seen.

Angel Shark
Angel Shark

The Angel Shark Project

A group of dedicated conservationists joined together in 2013 and formed the Angel Shark Project; a collaboration between the Zoological Society of London, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig . We have been working in the Canary Islands for the last three years to collect ecological and population data in this last remaining Angelshark (S.squatina) stronghold, whilst engaging with local communities, researchers and government to raise awareness and deliver conservation action.

Angel Shark Conservation Workshop

The Angel Shark Project, IUCN Shark Specialist Group and Shark Trust have organised the Angel Shark Conservation Workshop in June in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The workshop outputs will guide the next ten years of work to safeguard the future of these Critically Endangered species. 

Stakeholder representatives from all sectors will attend (researchers, non-governmental organisations, local government, Canary Island government, Spanish government, sport fishers, divers and shark advocates), with a focus on developing an Angelshark (S.squatina) Action Plan for the Canary Islands. At the end of the workshop, we will also start to develop a European Angel Shark Conservation Strategy, using information provided by researchers across Europe. 

Angel shark in the Canary Islands

The three major goals of the workshop are:

  • Conservation of the Angelshark (S.squatina) in its last stronghold of the Canary Islands is improved as key stakeholders adopt and work to deliver the actions set out in the Angelshark Action Plan.
  • A European Angel Shark Conservation Strategy is developed to bring together the best available knowledge, identify and address threats, disseminate information about the three Critically Endangered angel shark species that occur in the East Atlantic and Mediterranean Basin (S.squatina, S.aculeata and S.oculata) and to secure wider legislative protection throughout their range.
  • A strong network of individuals/organisations is developed, who work together and commit to deliver the outputs of the Angel Shark Conservation Workshop.

If you have a particular interest in angel shark, data and information to contribute or wish to know more about the angel shark conservation network then please email us. 

We are hugely grateful to all our funders, who are making this workshop possible: Disney Conservation Fund, Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, Fondation Ensemble, BIAZA National Aquarium Conference Fund and EcoAqua.

Find out more about the Angel Shark Project

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