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Number of angel sharks in Irish waters have declined by almost 95%

A global refuge for angel shark remains in the Canary Islands.
May 3rd 2019, 10:57 PM 17,109 37

THE STOCKS OF angel sharks in Irish waters have declined at an alarming rate over the past 25 years, according to new research. 

A study published in ‘Endangered Species Research’ which analysed angling data over a 40 year period from two angel shark hotspots in Irish waters, Tralee Bay and Clew Bay, revealed that there has been a sharp decline of at least 95% since the 1990s. 

Although a member of the shark family, angel sharks don’t have the classic shark shape, but a flatter appearance and a broad snout. Adults can grow up to two-and-a-half metres long.

Until the 60s, they could be found all around the Irish coast – but they were targeting in sport angling competitions during the 60s and 70s.

A global refuge for angel shark remains in the Canary Islands some sharks are still occasionally seen in historical hotspots such as Cardigan Bay in Wales and Tralee Bay, Co, Kerry.

According to Inland Fisheries Inland, it has only recorded 20 angel sharks since 200. This compares to an average of 65 angel shark tagged annually in Ireland by angling charter boat skippers for the IFI tagging programme at the peak in the 1980s.

Still hope 

Angel sharks are also susceptible to capture from commercial fishing gear. Their large size, slow reproductive cycle and tendency to live on the seabed mean they are vulnerable to capture.

Since the 1970s, IFI scientists have been coordinating the tagging of sharks and rays caught on Irish recreational angling boats.

The Marine Tagging Programme distributes numbered tags to skippers along with information and a logbook while Irish Specimen Fish Committee coordinates the collection of information of specimen fish caught in Irish waters.

“The contribution of angling charter skippers to this programme has produced a dataset of international importance to marine conservation. Our analysis shows that catches of angel shark have declined to almost zero in both Tralee Bay and Clew Bay,” Co-author and senior research officer at IFI, Dr William Roche, said. 

However, Roche added that there is still some hope for angel shark in Ireland, as there have been anecdotal sightings of the fish in recent years.

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Adam Daly

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