The Common Angelshark or Monkfish (Squatina squatina)
The conservation status of a species aims to reflect its probability to continue to exist or its extinction risk within a certain period, based on criterion such as presence and threats. The red lists incorporate and classify species that present a high extinction risk according to their threat level. Depending on the latter, different administrative protection and/or recovery measures will be applied.
Multiple organizations include the angelshark Squatina squatina in their threatened species list or evaluate its conservation status. This shark is still frequently encountered in the Canary Islands, but suffered important declines up to local extinctions in other regions of its wide distribution range. Due to this, it was included in different red lists with status ‘Critically Endangered’ or equivalent. This category is assigned when a species faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future. Some of these lists are:
- The Spanish Government included the angelshark in its List of Wild Species under Special Protection Regime and the Spanish Catalogue of Threatened Species for their Mediterranean region in 2011 by the Royal Decree 139/2011.
- The European Red List of Marine Fishes assigned the status ‘Critically Endangered’ in the year 2015.
- The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) declared the species extinct in the North Sea in the year 2005.
- The OSPAR Commission added Squatina squatina to the OSPAR list of threatened and/or declining species and habitats in 2008.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) listed 3 angelshark species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 as endangered. Read our contributions to the document draft.
- The evaluations from the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN) developed from ‘Vulnerable’ in 2000 to ‘Critically Endangered’ in 2006, 2015 and 2017. Confirmation of this status was pending for the Canary Islands until the most recent evaluation from 2017 (published 2019). The latter confirmed, consistent with our investigations, frequent sightings for this region.
Fisheries protection regulations
ICES recommended zero total allowable catches (TAC) for S. squatina in the North Sea and adjacent regions starting 2009, expanding to the Northeast Atlantic in later years. This resulted in the European Council Regulation 43/2009 with ratifications until to date (2019/124). These acts prohibit Union fishing vessels and third-country vessels to fish for, to retain on board, to tranship and to land the angel shark (S. squatina). They also oblige to promptly release accidental captures without harming these individuals.
There also exist fisheries protection regulations related to the angelshark in fishing grounds off the Canary Islands that were not based on red lists or evaluations of its status, such as the Royal Decree 2200/1986. This act prohibits trawling and similar fishing arts to which angelsharks are very susceptible.