Issue 16

Angelsharks in Wales Need Your Help!

by Jake Davies
Angel Shark Project: Wales Coordinator
18 Oct 2018

How can you help?

Angel Shark Project: Wales is a pioneering new project launched on July 2018 aims to better understand and safeguard the Angelshark (Squatina squatina) in Wales through fisher-participation, heritage and citizen-science.

We are working alongside fishers in Wales to gather information on historical and current accidental captures of Angelshark, as well provide training to take genetic samples in case you accidentally capture one in the future.

With this information, the project aims to:

  • Better understand the historical distribution of Angelsharks in Wales
  • Better understand the current distribution of Angelsharks in Wales
  • Investigate any trends in the Angelshark data (for example, but not limited to, change over time; importance of different areas; seasonal changes)
  • Feed into the Wales Angelshark Action Plan to identify ways to safeguard the future of Angelsharks in Welsh waters.

As Angelsharks are protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is It is illegal to intentionally disturb, target, injure or kill Angelsharks within 12 nautical miles of Welsh and English coastlines. But, if you accidentally catch one when fishing, follow our best practice guide to release it in a good condition. The Angelshark guidance was developed in collaboration with several partners including the Welsh Fishermen’s Association, Welsh Federation of Sea Anglers and the Shark Trust.

You can report personal sightings and accidental captures of Angelsharks to the sightings webpage angelsharknetwork.com or email angelsharks@zsl.org.

Citizen scientists will also be recruited to help gather historical information on Angelsharks across Wales by scouring local libraries, archives, historic magazines and museums. Information captured through this research will be digitalised and displayed in collaboration with People Collection Wales. The project team will be attending outreach events across Wales as well as organising ‘Angelshark History Roadshows’ where we welcome you to share your knowledge or any memories, photos and videos of Angelsharks in Welsh waters.

Those who are interested in being part of the project or would like to share memories or photographs of the species can get in touch at angelsharks@zsl.org to help save one of the rarest sharks in the world.

Angel Shark Project: Wales is led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Natural Resources Wales (NRW), funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Welsh Government.

 

What is an Angelshark?

These large, flat-bodied sharks can reach 2.4m in length. Also known as monkfish or angel fish, they are sometimes mistaken for a ray or mis-recorded as Anglerfish. Angelsharks feed on a range of fish, crustaceans and molluscs and have an important role in maintaining a balanced marine ecosystem.

They are not threatening to humans, living mainly on sand or mud at the bottom of the sea, laying in wait to ambush unsuspecting prey.

Once widespread across Europe, the Angelshark (Squatina squatina) has dramatically declined over the last 50 years and is now considered locally extinct in the North Sea and across large areas of Mediterranean. The Angelshark is now listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, with the waters around the Canary Islands being the only place where they are frequently sighted. The family of angel sharks (Squatinidae) are the second most threatened species of elasmobranchs (Sharks, Skates & Rays) behind sawfishes (Pristidae).

 

Angelsharks in Welsh waters?

Angelsharks, more commonly known as ‘Monkfish’ were regularly reported in the 1960s and early 1970s during the summer months in the inshore waters around the Welsh coast. The UK shore angling record for the Angelshark was also set in Cardigan bay off Llangwyril beach in 1984 which weighed 52lbs. Despite the report of this large individual, records of Angelsharks in the late 1970’s and 1980’s declined with several years reporting zero sightings or accidental catches. The reasons for the decline are not clear but may include general population wide reductions in Angelsharks anthropogenic impacts or changes in fishing activities leading to reduced accidental captures

However, in recent years reports of Angelsharks have appeared to increase. Most records are large adults with a few reports of juveniles. It is not clear what the reasons are for this apparent increase, but it might indicate that Welsh waters could be a haven for Angelsharks. Another reason for the increase in records may be due to increased awareness of the need to report catches of Angelsharks and the accessibility of social media to aid this process. It is therefore important to gather as much information on historic as well more recent records, in order to assess potential trends over time.

To find out more about the species off the Welsh Coast visit angelsharknetwork.com/wales and for its wider range across the East Atlantic and Mediterranean visit: angelsharknetwork.com.

Thank you for reading,

Jake Davies (Angel Shark Project: Wales Coordinator) & Angel Shark Project: Wales Team

 

Thanks for Reading

May I thank you once again for supporting this site. I look forward to hearing from readers with your feedback and opinions. Please feel free to comment below and add your voice to the discussion.

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Until next time, thanks for reading.

David Griffiths
Editor, and keen angler!

 




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