Angel Shark - Squatina squatina
Status: Critically Endangered … The female gives birth to a fully-developed pup
Location: Original range was from Scandinavia to North West Africa. They are now extinct within the North sea, and extremely uncommon throughout the rest of their original range.
Size: Females can grow to a length of approx 2.4 m (7.9 ft) and males 1.8 m (5.9 ft).
Habitat: The continental shelf, preferring mud or sand, and can be found from near the coast to a depth of 150 m (490 ft). Sometimes found in estuaries and other brackish waters.
Categorised as critically endangered, the angel shark is just one step away from extinction (in the wild). Its abundance has declined dramatically during the past 50 years, to the point where it has been declared extinct in the North Sea and has apparently been eradicated from large areas of the northern Mediterranean. It’s now extremely uncommon throughout most of the remainder of its range, except some areas of the southern Mediterranean and Canary Islands.
Angel shark are inadvertently caught, primarily by trawl fishing, as they lie buried on the sea bed during daylight hours. Benthic trawls have increased over the last fifty years in areas of the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean. Habitat destruction due to coastal developments, the increase of water sports, pollution and dredging are also likely threats to this species.
Angel shark are however protected within three Balearic Islands marine reserves, where fishing for this species is prohibited. It is also listed under UK Wildlife and Countryside Act, which allows protection against killing, injuring or taking on land and up to 3 nautical miles from the coast.
Angel shark are now declared extinct in the North Sea
Did you know?
- Angel shark are nocturnal. They inhabit sandy or muddy areas of sea bed so that they can completely bury themselves during the daytime, with only their eyes visible.
- The female gives birth to fully developed pups, (between 7 and 25 in each litter), which are capable of feeding themselves.
- Angel sharks are an unusual group of sharks belonging to the genus Squatina. They look like something half way between a shark and a ray.
- There are 16 known species of angel shark found in temperate and tropical seas worldwide. The species described here, Squatina squatina, is the only one known in British waters.
What MCS is doing:
- Working towards better protection of important marine habitats in the UK;
- Working towards better management of fisheries that can impact angel shark;
- Working to reduce marine litter and pollution that threatens angel shark and other fish.