The Angelshark (Squatina squatina) is a medium-sized benthic coastal shark species that is endemic to shelf seas in the north-east and eastern central Atlantic, Mediterranean and adjacent seas. The meat of the Angelshark is/was consumed fresh, salted or dried, its skin used as sand-paper, and its liver used for oil. It is also sometimes taken as ‘curios’ for fishmonger stalls and by trophy anglers. The fins may enter international trade to East Asia. Over the past 50–100 years, intensive demersal fishing pressure has resulted in local extirpations, some contractions in range, and fragmentation of the remaining populations of the Angelshark, either as target fish or bycatch. The Angelshark is also subject to non-consumptive use, such as recreational utilization at tourist attractions. However, recreational angling and disturbance from dive tourism are also threats at remaining aggregation sites.
The Angelshark swims strongly at night, but usually lies buried in sediment by day with only its eyes and dorsal fins protruding. It is an ambush and high trophic level (4.0) predator, taking bony fishes, cephalopods, skates, crustaceans and molluscs. Moreover, it undertakes seasonal north-south and inshore-offshore migrations, and probably favours coastal migration pathways. However, these are poorly documented, partly due to the species’ scarcity.
As its global populations have been significantly depleted, the Angelshark is assessed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List. The species is legally protected in part of its range under Monaco, UK and Spanish legislation, and incidentally in some marine protected areas where trawl and net fisheries are prohibited (e.g. in Spain and Turkey). Regional EU and GFCM fisheries prohibitions and listings under regional agreements (OSPAR, HELCOM, Barcelona and Bern Conventions) should provide protection and a framework for further action. Since late 2017, the Angelshark has been listed in Appendix I and Appendix II of CSM, which should strengthen public and fisher awareness of the Angelshark’s threatened status and stimulate full protection from the CMS Parties whose waters cover a large part of its range.