Angel Shark Project

Angel shark in the Canary Islands

Why we are there

Three angel shark species were once widespread throughout Europe’s seas, but are now extinct from much of their former range. Today, the Canary Islands is the only place where the Angelshark (Squatina squatina) is regularly sighted. However, here too they are under threat and urgent action is required to protect them in their last remaining stronghold. 

The decline of angel sharks across Europe has been caused by the intensification of fishing practices over the last 100 years. All three species of angel shark found in Europe were classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List in 2006 and 2015. Furthermore, in 2014, the angel shark family was identified as the second most threatened of all the world’s sharks and rays. 

Angel Shark Project

ZSL set up the Angel Shark Project with Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) and Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig (ZMFK) with the overal aim to safeguard the future of Critically Endangered angel sharks throughout their natural range. 

The Angel Shark Project is an interdisciplinary programme that collects ecological and population data whilst engaging with local communities, researchers and government to raise awareness and deliver conservation action. We focus on five key areas that have been prioritised to achieve our goal:

  1. 1. Understanding the biology and behaviour of angel sharks through collecting observations, tagging and genetic research.
  2. 2. Reducing mortality and disturbance of angel sharks by working with key stakeholders.
  3. 3. Raising awareness of the importance of the Canary Islands for angel shark conservation with the local population, expatriate population and tourists in the archipelago.
  4. 4. Providing evidence for and driving legislative change with local authorities and governments.
  5. 5. Delivering Europe-wide conservation initiatives through a developed Angel Shark Conservation Network.

Find out more about the Angel Shark Project and meet the team (the video is in Spanish and English): 


Angelshark Action Plan for the Canary Islands 

The Angelshark Action Plan for the Canary Islands has been developed to outline the major steps needed to eliminate or minimise the major threats to Angelshark (S.squatina) in the archipelago.

The Action Plan was developed by a partnership of conservation organisations (ZSL, ULPGC, ZFMK, Shark Trust, IUCN Shark Specialist Group and Submon), following a workshop in June 2016 that brought together stakeholder representatives from all sectors. The vision of the Action Plan is that Angelsharks in the Canary Islands are abundant and protected in their unique stronghold. Find out more information here.

Public sightings of angel sharks 

The collection of public sightings of angel sharks is vital to identify important habitats for these species e.g. nursery and foraging areas, and also answer basic ecological questions, such as when the breeding season is. Our new interactive map provides a quick way for divers, fishers or other stakeholders to report their angel shark sighting both in the Canary Islands as well as the wider East Atlantic and Mediterranean region. Please report your Angelshark sightings.  

Angel Shark. Carlos Suarez, Oceanos de Fuego
Angel Shark

Working with sportfishers

Angelsharks 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). Starting in 2015, the Angel Shark Project is working closely with sportfishers in Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Fuerteventura to explain how small changes in handling practice can improve Angelshark survival. Together we have developed a PDF icon Best practice guide to catch and release (2.47 MB) - look out for the charter fishing boats who display this guide on their boats.

Angelshark Tagging

In April 2015, we developed a protocol for tagging Angelsharks and have since completed tagging expeditions in Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Tenerife. The tagging project is closely linked to our citizen science platform, ePoseidon, so that divers and fishers can report sightings of tagged Angelsharks. This information will help us understand Angelshark movement in the archipelago and design effective conservation and management measures. 

During our tagging work, we also take genetic samples so that we can better understand how different Angelshark populations are related.

Nursery Ground Surveys

The Angel Shark Project is  working closely with Asociación Tonina at an important Angelshark  nursery ground in Tenerife. We use tagging in this area to understand population size and structure as well as estimating the  spatial distribution and habitat use of juvenile Angelsharks. Find out more here.

In 2016, the Angel Shark Project is expanding this work by completing surveys across the archipelago to identify and investigate new Angelshark nursery grounds. This information will be used to prioritise areas for spatial protection.



Kindly funded by: 

Angel Shark Project funder logos

Angel Shark Project logo 2016

Public sightings of Angelsharks

Spotted an Angelshark? Report it

Project information

PDF icon Angelshark Action Plan for the Canary Islands (2.52 MB)

Key species

  • Angelshark (Squatina squatina)
  • Smoothback Angelshark (Squatina oculata)
  • Sawback Angelshark (Squatina aculeata)

People involved

  • Joanna Barker (ZSL) is the Conservation Lead of the Angel Shark Project
  • Eva Meyers (ZFMK) is the Research Lead of the Angel Shark Project
  • David Jimenez Alvarado (ULPGC) is the Project Officer of the Angel Shark Project


  • Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
  • Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig
  • IUCN Shark Specialist Group
  • Shark Trust
  • Submon 
  • Asociación Tonina

Kindly funded by:

  • Disney Conservation Fund
  • Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund
  • The Biodiversity Consultancy
  • Save Our Seas Foundation
  • BIAZA National Aquarium Conference Fund
  • Deutsche Elasmobranchier-Gesellschaft