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Collective-memories of Welsh people could safeguard Critically Endangered Angelshark

Communities asked to help ZSL and NRW uncover the history of Angelsharks in Wales at new event

This post is also available in: cyCymraeg (Welsh)

The people of Wales are being invited to share stories, memories and photographs of the Critically Endangered Angelshark at international conservation charity ZSL’s (Zoological Society of London) and NRW’s (Natural Resources Wales) – first-ever ‘Angelshark History Roadshow’.

Travelling across Wales, the unique roadshow will not only highlight the importance of the charismatic Angelshark – but also seek information from local communities, to better understand the species. The knowledge will be used by ZSL and NRW scientists to identify important Angelshark habitats and investigate how their numbers might have changed over time.

Angelsharks (Squatina squatina) are ‘flat sharks’ that spend most of their time camouflaged on the bottom of the seabed ambushing fish. They were once common across the east Atlantic and Mediterranean seas, with historic records suggesting the importance of the Welsh coast for the species. However, Angelshark numbers declined across their range in the 20th Century due to a range of threats, including habitat disturbance, pollution and incidental catch in fisheries.

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An Angelshark (Squatina squatina) swimming over the seabed (c) Michael Sealey

Angelsharks are now classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but recent sightings suggest that a small population still resides throughout Welsh waters. Angelsharks are important to the marine environment as they are a top predator and are listed as the fifth most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) shark in the world, representing a distinct branch of the tree of life.

Starting in Nefyn on Friday 25 January 2019, before travelling onto Milford Haven, Swansea, Aberystwyth and Holyhead throughout February and March – the roadshows are open for all to attend and conservationists hope this novel approach to species research – bringing together community memories alongside fisher records – will provide a much-needed insight into the history of one of the world’s most threatened sharks.

ZSL and NRW, in partnership with 13 organisations across Wales, launched ‘Angel Shark Project: Wales’ in July 2018 in order to build a clearer picture of where Angelsharks are found in Welsh waters and to understand their role in Welsh maritime heritage. Knowledge – be it of local history or culture – held by people across Wales is vital in this endeavor; each photograph or memory will be a crucial piece of evidence used to unlock the mystery of Angelsharks in Wales.

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Joanna Barker, Angelshark Project Manager at ZSL said:

“We are asking people across Wales to help us understand more about this important shark’s historic range and its Welsh cultural connection. Someone might have an old photograph in the drawer, a memory of their grandfather fishing or possibly even be able to tell us about a recent sighting of an Angelshark.

“Even if people haven’t ever heard of an Angelshark, we’d love them to come along and tell us about the local area – changes in local industry, fishing practices or infrastructure could all help us to fill in the blanks of the Angelshark’s history and create the best plan of action to safeguard them into the future.”

All events will be running from 10:00 – 17:00.

  • Friday 25 – Saturday 26 January – Llŷn Maritime Museum, Nefyn
  • Monday 11 – Tuesday 12 February – Milford Heritage Museum, Milford Haven
  • Friday 15 – Saturday 16 Feb – National Waterfront Museum, Swansea
  • Friday 1 – Saturday 2 March – The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
  • Monday 4 – Tuesday 5 March – Holyhead Sea Cadets, Holyhead

Each Angelshark Roadshow is free and drop in, with no booking required. The roadshow will remain in each town for two days. To learn more about the events please contact [email protected] or visit www.angelsharknetwork.com/wales or just drop in at a Angelshark Roadshow near you.

The Angel Shark Project: Wales is made possible through funding of £128k awarded by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Welsh Government.

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