Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean
Angel Shark Conservation Strategy
Angel sharks* rank as the second most threatened
family of elasmobranch (sharks, skates and rays) after
sawshes1. Characteristics linking the two families
include their body shape and preferred habitat, as both
are large, at-bodied coastal species.
The family Squatinidae contains at least 23 species, half
of which are listed as threatened (Critically Endangered,
Endangered or Vulnerable) on the IUCN Red List of
Threatened SpeciesTM. Most of the remaining species
are either Data Decient or Not Evaluated. The slow
growth and demersal nature of angel sharks leaves
them especially vulnerable to inshore shing activities.
Consequently, many species in this family have suered
steep population declines and now face a signicant risk
Once found throughout the temperate waters of the
Northeast Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Seas, angel
sharks have now been depleted from much of their former
range. Of the three species that occur in these regions –
the Angelshark* Squatina squatina, Sawback Angelshark
Squatina aculeata and Smoothback Angelshark Squatina
oculata - most information is known regarding the
distribution, ecology and declines of Squatina squatina.
All three species are Critically Endangered.
About this Strategy
This Angel Shark Conservation Strategy provides a
framework for improved protection of the three Critically
Endangered species present in the Eastern Atlantic and
Mediterranean. The Strategy aims to: improve the overall
prole of angel sharks; increase the number of sightings
reported; generate a better understanding of current
distribution; contribute to IUCN Red List re-assessments
and identify new collaboration opportunities to increase
Some of the key threats to these species are outlined
within this Strategy. Three priority goals and associated
headline objectives have been identied as crucial to
achieving the vision that: Angel sharks in the Eastern
Atlantic and Mediterranean are restored to robust
populations and safeguarded throughout their range.
The recommended next steps outlined in this document
act as guidelines for targeted conservation actions.
Researchers and advocates in all regions are invited
to contribute additional information to support this
Strategy and help develop specic actions to safeguard
these Critically Endangered species.
*angel shark (as two words) refers to multiple species in the
family Squatinidae, while Angelshark (as one word) is used for
species common names.
Squatina squatina © Carlos Suarez, Oceanos de Fuego
Smoothback Angelshark Squatina oculata6
Former Range: Formerly common over large areas of coastal and outer continental shelf
areas in the Eastern Atlantic (from the southern Iberian peninsula down to Namibia) and
the Mediterranean Sea (more frequent in southern regions, e.g. Tunisia).
Current Range: Occasional reports are received from the West African coast as well as
the Eastern and Central Mediterranean.
Size: Reported to mature at 71 – 82 cm (♂) and 89–100 cm (♀)
Maximum length 145 cm (♂) and 160 cm (♀)
Remarks: As with S. squatina and S. aculeata, abundance has declined considerably during the
past 50 years due to intense demersal sheries operating throughout its range. Although this
species is likely still taken as incidental catch in trawl and gillnet sheries in some regions, it is
likely no longer present in large areas of the Mediterranean and parts of the West African coast.
Sawback Angelshark Squatina aculeata4
Former Range: Once widespread in the Eastern Atlantic (West African coasts from
Morocco to Angola) and Mediterranean Sea (Western and Central basins, Ionian Sea,
and Egyptian coasts).
Current Range: Only occasional reports of this species are now received, including
from the Eastern Mediterranean and parts of the West African coast.
Size: Estimated average length at maturity 124 cm
Maximum length ~188 cm
Remarks: It is dicult to conrm contemporary range as angel shark landings are reported
in aggregated categories5, masking species specic landings. Although likely still taken as
incidental catch, the total number of individuals caught is unquantied. Its habitat has been
subject to intense demersal sheries (including trawls, set nets and bottom longlines), as such,
this species is now rarely reported from large areas of its former range.
S. aculeata © Marc Dando
S. oculata © Marc Dando S. squatina © Marc Dando
Angelshark Squatina squatina2
Former Range: Historically common over large areas of the coastal, continental, and
insular shelf of the Northeast Atlantic (from southern Norway and the Shetland Islands
down to Morocco, West Sahara, and the Canary Islands), as well as the Mediterranean
and Black Seas.
Current Range: The Canary Islands provide a unique stronghold for this species,
oering the last known location where it can be regularly encountered. The
remainder of its range has drastically contracted and only occasional reports
are now received from the Eastern and Central Mediterranean, Adriatic Sea,
and Celtic Seas ecoregion. However, in recent years, there have been increased
reports from Cardigan Bay (Irish Sea).
Size: Reported to mature at 80 - 132 cm (♂) and 128 - 169 cm (♀)
Maximum length 183 cm (♂) and ~244 cm (♀)
Remarks: This is the only species of angel shark known in northern European seas. Range
has severely contracted during the past century, largely due to the intensication of
demersal shing practices. Urgent action is still required to further protect S. squatina in its
Canary Islands stronghold, to address this, a collaborative Angelshark Action Plan for
the Canary Islands3 was launched in late 2016.
S. squatina & S. oculata
S. aculeata & S. oculata
for S. squatina in
UK Waters (0-12 nm)I.
Regional protection for
S. squatina in EU Union Waters
with a Prohibition on retentionII.
Domestic protection for
Squatina spp. in Spanish
Regular sightings of juvenile
(and adult) S. squatina7 in the
Minimal knowledge of incidental or
targeted landings from the West
record of S. oculata.
Despite prohibition in
Mediterranean, landings persist.
records of S. oculata9.
for Squatina spp. in
Balearic Islands with
protective status in
Marine Protected Areas.
Recent known distribution since 1987
The retention of
24 species of elasmobranch
(including Squatina spp.)
are prohibited in the
In 2015, over 180 tonnes5 of
angel shark were reported as
landed from Mediterranean
Waters. Additional landings are
highly likely under aggregated
Former range of Squatina spp.
Recent juvenile sightings
Squatina spp. is used to refer to the three
species of angel shark found in these
regions, rather than the entire family.
Distribution and Management Measures
The distribution of these three angel shark species overlaps substantially and there is still a great deal of uncertainty
regarding contemporary range. Figure 1 reects the paucity of landings data and current management measures
in place (listed in Table 1). Recent reports of juveniles are also highlighted as they conrm the presence of breeding
stock and could help direct conservation action. The presence of these juveniles provides encouraging signs for
the future of these Critically Endangered species. Reports of adult and juvenile sightings can be viewed by visiting
the online sightings map at www.angelsharknetwork.com. This Strategy encourages the submission of data and
information by regional experts, contributing additional layers to the existing knowledge base.
Area Species Legislative/conservation measure
I UK S. squatina Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981); Northern Ireland Wildlife Order (1985); Scottish Elasmobranch
Protection Order (2012).
II EU Union Waters S. squatina Prohibited species under the EU Common Fisheries Policy Council Regulation (EC) 43/2009.
Domestic legislation in Spanish waters for Squatina spp. through the Spanish List of Species Under
Special Protection in the Mediterranean (LESPRE) Orden AAA/75/2012.
IV Canary Islands S. squatina Angelshark Action Plan for the Canary Islands.
V Mediterranean Squatina
Elasmobranch species on Barcelona Convention Annex II of the Protocol concerning Specially
Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean (SPA/BD Protocol) for which GFCM
(GFCM/36/2012/3) Parties agreed to ban retention, landing, transhipment, storage, display, and sale.
Table 1. Details of map annotations for legislative and conservation measures
Figure 1. Current and former distribution of S.
squatina, S. aculeata, and S. oculata, key legislative
measures, and recent juvenile sightings.
Within this Conservation Strategy, the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean has been broken down into four sub-
regions: Northeast Atlantic, Canary Islands, West Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea. The potential threats faced
by angel shark populations are detailed in Table 2 using the headings outlined in the standardised IUCN Red List
threat classication criteria10. The most signicant direct threats are highlighted within the table and should be given
highest priority. Specialist input was sought through an online questionnaire and associated workshops, however
additional contributions would help identify specic regional threats and subsequent actions.
Table 2. Potential threats to angel sharks in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean.
Invasive & Other
Invasive species Desalination
food security Oil spills
Ghost shing Eutrophication
Example threats for each geographic region:
Northeast Atlantic: commercial shing
The morphology of angel sharks twinned with their
demersal habitat makes them highly vulnerable to
targeted or incidental capture in a number of coastal
sheries. Despite some sheries restrictions, the actual
level of threat is masked by the lack of incidental catch
reporting or reporting under aggregated categories.
Canary Islands: recreational shing
Angel sharks are caught by recreational shers
throughout their range. In addition to the 50 registered
recreational charter vessels in the Canary Islands, there
are a substantial number of shore anglers, spearshers
and privately registered vessels catching S. squatina.
With no ocial catch reporting mechanisms, the
impact of this sector remains unquantied.
Mediterranean: poor implementation
Regulations or measures exist for the management
and protection of angel sharks in the Mediterranean,
however not all are implemented e.g. the General
Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean
(GFCM/36/2012/3). The outward projection of
management infers that unregulated sheries no
longer pose a threat.
West Africa: small-scale shing
References to the consumption of angel shark are
fairly common throughout their range. Sharks are
an important source of protein to many coastal
communities, however the importance specically of
angel sharks to food security is unquantied. Market
surveys and data collection at a national level should
assist in ascertaining to what extent small-scale shing
poses a threat.
Vision, Goals and Objectives
Three priority goals are key to delivering the vision that: Angel sharks in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean are
restored to robust populations and safeguarded throughout their range. The associated headline objectives identify
broad themes under which subsequent actions can be grouped (Table 3). Actions undertaken to help realise these
goals and objectives will be varied according to threat, geographic region and policy measures currently in place.
Table 3. Vision, goals and objectives of the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Angel Shark Conservation Strategy.
Juvenile Squatina squatina © Michael Scholl
Angel sharks in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean are restored to robust populations
and safeguarded throughout their range
Fisheries based angel shark
mortality is minimised
Critical Angel Shark Areas** are
identied, investigated and
protected where appropriate
Human interactions are
identied and any negative
impacts on angel sharks
OBJECTIVE 1 Reporting and monitoring
in commercial sheries is
Distribution and presence
of angel shark is conrmed
and areas of importance are
identied and mapped
The extent of human
interaction in each region is
OBJECTIVE 2 Existing legislative measures
to protect angel sharks
are implemented through
enforcement and monitoring
Human impact in Critical Angel
Shark Areas is quantied and
The impact of renewable
and extractive industries on
angel shark populations is
OBJECTIVE 3 Gaps in protective measures
are identied and appropriate
legislation to ll these gaps is
developed and implemented
Critical Angel Shark Areas
are protected through spatial
Critical Angel Shark
Areas are considered
prior to nearby coastal
development so impacts
OBJECTIVE 4 Improved sher knowledge
of angel sharks’ threat status
reduces retention and
encourages better handling to
improve post release survival
Angel sharks are protected
by regional and domestic
The extent of angel shark
related tourism in each
region is assessed and
any interactions with angel
sharks is understood
OBJECTIVE 5 Incidental catch of angel sharks
is quantied and minimised
OBJECTIVE 6 The extent of interaction
between recreational shing
activities and angel sharks is
**A Critical Angel Shark Area is dened as:
A specic geographic area that contains essential features necessary
for the conservation of angel sharks. This may include an area that is not
currently occupied by the species that will be needed for its recovery
or conservation e.g. nursery, mating, aggregation and foraging areas.
Priorities to address some of the recognised threats and headline objectives have been outlined, however
additional priorities will be identied through further engagement with regional experts. Overarching threats and
recommended actions include, but are not limited to:
Commercial sheries: assess landings data; identify incidents of non-compliance; identify lack of management
implementation; advocate for implementation in appropriate fora.
Incidental catch: engage with regional sheries bodies; improve incidental catch reporting; identify sheries
with signicant incidental catch; provide guidance on best practice to increase post-release survival; initiate
incidental catch mitigation measures.
Recreational angling: compile regional registers of recreational charter vessels and associated outlets; provide
identication materials; encourage sightings and catch reporting.
Critical Angel Shark Areas: engage with local shermen and researchers to inform distribution; provide species
identication materials; identify potential critical habitats; investigate migratory behaviour; map ndings.
Human interactions: identify key activities (e.g. diving, tourism, coastal development); map likely hot-spots of
human interaction (both positive and negative); undertake surveys to quantify the level and nature of interactions.
More specic priorities for each geographic region include:
Eective legislative protection twinned with a reduction in incidental catch mortality are key to delivering
the vision of this Conservation Strategy. Key policy objectives have been identied, and additional domestic
regulation opportunities sought.
Priorities - H: High M: Medium
Costs - $: Low cost (likely with existing budget) $$: Medium cost (additional funding may be required)
Key Policy Actions Priority Cost
Listing on Spanish Domestic Regulations (based on priorities within the Angelshark Action
Plan for the Canary Islands).
Implementation of General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) measures. H $
Expansion of Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to include additional Squatina spp.H $
Listing on Convention of Migratory Species (CMS) (if data available on migratory behaviour). M $$
Other national management measures as identied. M $$
Table 4. Key policy actions with associated priorities and costs.
Whilst S. squatina benets from Prohibited status in
much of the Northeast Atlantic, the next steps should
• secure management for additional Squatina spp.
under the EU Common Fisheries Policy;
• quantify incidental catch in commercial and
The Angelshark Action Plan for the Canary Islands
provides a clear framework for the delivery of specic
goals, objectives and actions in this unique stronghold
for S. squatina. This Action Plan could be considered
as a model for regional engagement.
Download the Action Plan in English or Spanish from:
Recent publications have reported the presence of
adult and juvenile angel sharks (both S. aculeata7 and
S. oculata8) in the Mediterranean, potentially indicating
the presence of breeding stock. Next steps include:
• enhance understanding of species distribution;
• quantify incidental catch;
• enforce existing management measures.
West Africa is a priority region which perhaps poses
some of the greatest challenges, with little published
information currently available. Next steps include:
• further engage with regional experts;
• quantify landings and distribution;
• understand secondary uses;
• identify management opportunities.
How to engage with this Strategy
Further details and supporting materials to this summary document can be found at www.angelsharknetwork.com.
Here you can:
• Submit angel shark sightings
• Join the Angel Shark Conservation Network (ASCN)
• Download additional resources
• Access the latest angel shark news and research
Angel shark questionnaire: if you have supplementary information about angel sharks in the Eastern Atlantic and
Mediterranean, please visit www.bit.ly/2qeVzDJ and complete the questionnaire. Additional information provided
will help enhance this Conservation Strategy and allow expansion of the angel shark community.
If you would like further information on this document, please contact email@example.com.
CITATION: Gordon, C.A., Hood, A.R., Barker, J., Bartolí, À.,
Dulvy, N.K., Jiménez Alvarado, D., Lawson, J.M., and Meyers,
E.K.M. (2017) Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Angel Shark
Conservation Strategy. The Shark Trust.
WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS (L-R): Riley Pollum, Jo Barker,
David Jiménez Alvarado, Eva Meyers, Jim Ellis, Rowland
Sharp, Sonja Fordham, Heike Zidowitz, Cat Gordon, Sarah
Fowler, Ali Hood, Julia Lawson, Àlex Bartolí. Not pictured:
Martin Clark, Nick Dulvy, Colin Simpfendorfer.
1. Dulvy, N.K. et al. (2014) Extinction risk and conservation of the world’s sharks and rays. eLife 3: e00590.
2. Ferretti, F. et al. (2015) Squatina squatina. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: e.T39332A48933059.
3. Barker, J. et al. (2016) Angelshark Action Plan for the Canary Islands.
4. Morey, G. et al. (2007) Squatina aculeata. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: e.T61417A12477164.
5. FAO FishStat Plus - Universal software for shery statistical time series. Rome. www.fao.org/shery/statistics/software/shstat/en (landings updated to 2015).
6. Morey, G. et al. (2007) Squatina oculata. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: e.T61418A12477553.
7. Meyers E.K.M. et al. (2017) Population structure, distribution and habitat use of the Critically Endangered Angelshark, Squatina squatina, in the Canary
Islands. Aquatic Conserv: Mar Freshw Ecosyst.
8. Başusta, N. (2016) New records of neonate and juvenile sharks (Heptranchias perlo, Squatina aculeata, Etmopterus spinax) from the North-eastern
Mediterranean Sea. Mar Biodiv 46: 525-527.
9. Zava, B. et al. (2016) Occurrence of juvenile Squatina oculata Bonaparte, 1840 (Elasmobranchii: Squatinidae) in the Strait of Sicily (Central Mediterranean).
Cybium 40 (4): 341-343.
10. Salafsky et al. (2008) A standard lexicon for biodiversity conservation: unied classications of threats and actions. Conserv. Biol. (4): 897 - 911.
Juvenile Squatina squatina © Tom Young
This Conservation Strategy provides a summary of available information for the three species of angel shark in the
Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. Threats, goals and objectives are outlined, however this document acts as an
invitation for interested individuals to contribute relevant research for the highlighted regions. It is the intention that
this Strategy serves as a catalyst for action, bringing together regional experts and resources, and increasing the
community’s capacity to deliver eective conservation for these Critically Endangered species.
From clarity of species distribution, understanding of cultural signicance, quantication of incidental catch rates, to
eective implementation of both existing and new management criteria and beyond – there is a great deal of work
to do and opportunity for interested parties to get involved.
The Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Angel Shark
Conservation Strategy aims to:
• improve the overall prole of angel sharks;
• increase the number of sightings reported;
• generate a better understanding of current distribution;
• contribute to IUCN Red List re-assessments;
• identify new opportunities for collaboration.
This Conservation Strategy was created following workshops held
in Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) and Bristol (UK) in 2016 and having
reviewed questionnaire responses submitted by additional experts.
Squatina squatina © Michael Sealey