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Angel sharks are one of the most threatened shark and ray families on our planet. If they were to go extinct, we would lose a whole branch of the tree of life.

What is the issue?
Angel sharks are one of the most threatened shark and ray families on our planet. These large, flat-bodied sharks are particularly susceptible to fishing and habitat loss due to their preference for coastal waters and elements of their life history, such as slow growth rates and low fecundity. With estimated declines of more than 80% in the last 45 years, the three angel shark species found in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea – Squatina squatina, S. oculata and S. aculeata - are all classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Angel sharks have a unique evolutionary history, making these declines even more concerning; if they were to go extinct, we would lose a whole branch of the tree of life.

Historically, Angelsharks were target of commercial fisheries in the Adriatic Sea and, according to old literary sources, represented a reliable fishery resource in coastal areas. Two out of three critically endangered species of angelsharks of the Mediterranean Sea have been recorded in the Adriatic Sea, namely smoothback angelshark Squatina oculata and common angelshark Squatina squatina. Although the records are very scarce it is considered that S. oculata has been extirpated from the Adriatic Sea due to overfishing. Landings of S. squatina declined dramatically after the 1960s, causing them to become considered “economically extinct”. Recent records (2010–2020 inclusive) show that Angelsharks are still present in the northern Adriatic Sea, with a potential hotspot identified in the Molat Island archipelago.
What are we doing?
Advances will be made in the conservation of angel sharks in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea through partnership working, strengthening of the Angel Shark Conservation Network and delivery of priority activities in seven focal countries. The main objective in Croatia is to strengthen protection of angel sharks through a co-management approach, with a community-developed Fishery Restricted Area (FRA) proposal for Molat archipelago.
Who do we work with?
AS project is delivering actions through Angel Shark Conservation Network in seven focal countries. In Croatia, WWF Adria will focus on development of Angelshark co-management together with representatives of small scale fishers, University of Zadar and Public Institution for Managing Protected Areas in Zadar County. 

Countries and partners are: 
  • Canary Islands – Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig (ZFMK) and Zoological Society of London (ZSL)
  • Corsica – University of Corsica, CRPMEM Corsica (fisher committee), WWF France
  • Croatia – WWF Adria
  • Greece – iSea
  • Ireland – Munster Technological University
  • Libya – Marine Biology in Libya
  • Wales – Natural Resources Wales 
  • Angel Shark Conservation Network – led by IUCN Shark Specialist Group, Shark Trust, Submon, ULPGC, ZFMK and ZSL.
What are the big wins?
Angelshark project is a continuation of the work on protection of Angelshark through three projects from 2019 onwards:
  • Saving Angelsharks in the Mediterranean
  • Push Angelsharks and
  • No-take zone project.

Through these projects analysis of new and existing Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) on Angel Sharks have been conducted. On the basis of the LEK study, recommendations have been provided to reduce the impact of fisheries on Angelsharks in existing potential Angelsharks critical habitats. Bottom habitat mapping was done with the aim to prepare the scientific and technical baseline for the establishment of the fishery restricted area (FRA) together with a number of advocacy actions towards decision makers. All of the actions served as a baseline for the continuation of the work on Angelshark conservation through the AS project.