Action Plan launched to protect the Critically Endangered Angelshark, still found off the Welsh coast

A five-year action plan has been published today to help safeguard Angelsharks, one of the world’s rarest shark species, which can still be found around the Welsh coastline. []

The Wales Angelshark Action Plan has been developed with organisations from across Wales in response to the limited understanding of the ecology and status of the Critically Endangered Angelsharks in Wales and sets out priority actions to safeguard this protected species.

The Action Plan is the culmination of two years’ extensive evidence gathering carried out as part of Angel Shark Project: Wales (ASP:W), a collaborative initiative led by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London).

Since its launch in 2018, ASP:W has successfully brought together fishers, government bodies, NGOs and local people from across Wales, to build a clearer picture of where Angelsharks are found in Welsh waters and to understand their role in Wales’ maritime heritage.

Data gathered from community memories, historical research, fisher knowledge and citizen science surveys has been used to inform the Action Plan, which will be implemented over the next five years.

Joanna Barker, Senior Project Manager - Marine and Freshwater Conservation at ZSL, said:

“The launch of this Action Plan is a vital step to safeguard the future of Angelsharks in Wales. This species has significant scientific and cultural importance to Wales and is listed as the fifth most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) shark in the world, representing a distinct branch of the tree of life."

Since 1980, more than 1,600 Angelsharks have been reported in coastal waters of the Welsh Zone, including 79 juvenile records from areas around North Cardigan Bay and the Bristol Channel.

Ben Wray, Marine Ecologist at NRW said:

“It’s hugely exciting that we still have an Angelshark population here in Wales, and the collaborative working over the last two years has significantly improved our understanding of the status and ecology of this very important species.
“What’s vital now is that we build on what we’ve learned so far and improve our understanding further to make sure that this rare shark is safeguarded – both now and in the future.”

Jake Davies, ASP:W Coordinator added:

“We’re extremely grateful to all the partners, including the fishing community and members of the public, who have taken part in this project to date.
“Thanks to funding and support from several organisations, including On The EDGE Conservation, priority actions from the Action Plan can start next month. This will include a systematic environmental DNA (eDNA) study in North Cardigan Bay to understand Angelshark presence throughout the year, continued work with the fishing community and inspiring coastal communities in Wales with the Angels of Wales eBook.”