A new era for shark conservation? Protecting ‘flat sharks’, rays and angels

How do we decide which sharks to conserve?

This event explored a new era of shark conservation, focusing on better protecting the lesser-known ‘flat sharks’ and rays. Large coastal sharks and rays have a greater exposure to habitat degradation and fishing compared to offshore and pelagic species. This means that some taxonomic groups are more at risk of extinction due to their ecology, such as sawfishes, angel sharks, wedgefishes, sleeper rays, stingrays and guitarfishes.

Following the launch of the Angel Shark Action Plan for the Canary Islands in 2016, and the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Angel Shark Conservation Strategy in 2017, this event will explore the collaborative conservation initiatives developed to better protect some of the worlds most threatened species of shark and ray. Speakers highlighted new tagging, monitoring and public outreach techniques being used to overcome the difficulties of conserving species that have limited ecological data due to their rarity. The evening also highlighted what progress has been made towards achieving key species actions plans, and how successful conservation initiatives can be replicated for different species.



  • Ali Hood, Director of Conservation, Shark Trust
    Putting the spotlight on flat sharks (Listen)

Based in the UK, Ali Hood is a marine conservation advocate with over 20 years’ experience.  Previously working for the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, Ali has been at the Shark Trust since 2002. As the Director of Conservation for the Trust, and currently the Vice President of the European Elasmobranch Association, Ali has spent the last 15 years campaigning for effective fisheries management, shark finning regulations and species protection at home and on the high-seas, while developing the Trust’s conservation portfolio and reputation as an effective, pragmatic conservation organisation. A strong proponent of science-based advocacy and effective collaboration, Ali represents the Trust’s interests as founder members of the Global Sharks and Rays Initiative and the Shark League for the Atlantic and Mediterranean. ‘Flat-sharks’ feature strongly in Ali’s interests, and the Shark Trust’s work, with the Trust pleased to represent those species considered by some as less charismatic.

  • Joanna Barker, Marine and Freshwater Project Manager, ZSL, and Co-founder of the Angel Shark Project
    Scaling up angel shark conservation through action planning, research and engagement (Listen)

Joanna Barker has worked in the Marine and Freshwater Conservation team here at ZSL for the last five years. During that time, she has managed a number of projects in the Thames Estuary, but has more recently led ZSL’s work on European elasmobranch conservation. As part of this, she set up the Angel Shark Project alongside partners in the Canary Islands and Germany in 2013, with the overall aim to safeguard the future of Critically Endangered angel sharks in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. Before ZSL, Joanna studied at the University of Oxford and University of York.

  • Stuart J Hetherington, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)
    Can fisher-led research inform future management of common skate (Dipturus batis complex)?

As a senior marine biologist at Cefas and a specialist tagging operative with experience of deploying of over 600 electronic tags on a range of marine fish species, Stuart Hetherington’s current research relates to by-catch, discard survival, movement and distribution of data-deficient species of sharks, skates and rays, of both political and conservation interest, such as common skate and spurdog. Rather than the more traditional approaches of fisheries science, Stuart invests his time in collaborative research between fishermen, scientists and other stakeholders using novel approaches such as electronic tagging and CCTV aboard fishing vessels to collect information, building an evidence base to inform policy. 

  • Chaired by Matthew Gollock, ZSL

Matthew Gollock is the Marine and Freshwater Programme Manager at ZSL, and has over 20 years’ experience researching and conserving aquatic species. He is interested in migratory species - particularly elasmobranchs and anguillid eels – and the management and policy mechanisms required to conserve their unique life histories.


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