Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Chondrichthyes Squatiniformes Squatinidae

Scientific Name: Squatina californica
Species Authority: Ayres, 1859
Common Name(s):
English Pacific Angel Shark, Pacific Angelshark

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2005
Date Assessed: 2005-10-01
Assessor(s): Cailliet, G.M.
Reviewer(s): Musick, J.A. & Fowler, S.L. (Shark Red List Authority)
This assessment is based on the information published in the 2005 shark status survey (Fowler et al. 2005).

This once abundant eastern Pacific coastal shark is relatively slow-growing, late maturing and moderately fecund, reaching maturity at ~13 years and producing up to 10 pups per year. Because of its rather limited geographical range and life history, resident stocks of Pacific Angelshark (Squatina californica) may be particularly vulnerable to heavy localised fishing pressure. Commercial catch data in recent decades demonstrated a peak, followed by an almost complete collapse in the central California gillnet fishery for California halibut. This fishery is now closed under California law.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2000 Lower Risk/near threatened (LR/nt)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Pacific Angelshark occurs off the coast of North America from Alaska to the tip of Baja California, Mexico (including the Gulf of California) and perhaps to Ecuador and southern Chile, but the taxonomy of the southern population has not yet been validated. It is relatively common in central and southern California (US) waters, especially off the coast of Santa Barbara (Natanson and Cailliet 1986, 1990, Leet et al. 1992, 2001). It lives in relatively shallow waters to depths of 100 m, but it is much more abundant in nearshore, coastal waters (Eschmeyer et al. 1983).
Countries occurrence:
Canada; Mexico (Baja California); United States (Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northeast; Pacific – southeast
Lower depth limit (metres): 100
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Current Population Trend: Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Pacific Angelsharks are relatively small, bottom-dwelling elasmobranchs, which commonly remain partially buried on flat, sandy bottoms during the daytime, but which can become active at night (Leet et al. 1992, 2001). They are primarily piscivores, apparently waiting for vulnerable prey to swim overhead. In southern California, they are reported to eat croakers, damselfish and squid (Leet et al. 1992, 2001), but their diet extends to pelagic fishes as well. Numerous techniques of ageing and age verification have been used on Pacific angelsharks, but none except tag-recapture have been successful at estimating their growth rates or age-specific processes (Natanson and Cailliet 1990, Cailliet et al. 1992). These tag-recapture data, however, allowed an estimate of von Bertalanffy growth and demography parameters that predicted relatively slow growth and moderate fecundity, with maturity occurring relatively late in life. Reproduction starts in both males and females at about 90-100 cm TL or ~13 years of age, with gestation taking approximately 10 months, resulting in up to 11 pups (mean of six) per female born between March and June.
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The growth and demography parameters from the tag-recapture study indicated that Pacific Angelsharks grew slowly enough and had relatively few offspring relatively late in life to indicate that they could not handle strong exploitation (see Richards 1987). There was a rapid increase in angel shark landings between 1983-1986 (Richards 1987), leading to concern that stocks could be over-exploited. Even though a minimum size was proposed for the gillnet fishery targeting both California Halibut (Paralichthys californicus) and Pacific Angelsharks, this measure proved not to be effective at reversing the declining population levels along the Santa Barbara/ Ventura coast and Channel Islands areas, California (Richards 1987, Cailliet et al. 1993). Because of the gillnet fishery ban (Proposition 132) voted into law by Californians in 1990, there is now a reduced threat to the California population of Pacific Angelsharks. However, little is known about the effect of fisheries on the overall stock of this population, which is being heavily fished along both the Pacific and Gulf coasts of Baja California (C. Villavicencio pers. comm.).

Because of its rather limited geographical range and evidence of only limited exchange among regional stocks within this range, resident stocks near large population centres may be particularly vulnerable to heavy localised fishing pressure. This is especially true since past commercial catch data have exhibited a typical elasmobranch fisheries pattern. Angel shark landings in California increased from about 45.4 t in the late 1970s, to 545 t in 1985 and 1986. This was followed by a rapid decline in total catch to et al. 1993).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Pacific Angelshark is considered to be overfished. The fishery is now indirectly regulated, mainly through the ban on nearshore gillnet fisheries in southern California, which originally targeted the California halibut (Cailliet et al. 1992, Leet et al. 1992). Nevertheless, an interest still remains in commercially exploiting this species and conservation measures should be implemented to protect its populations in the future.

Citation: Cailliet, G.M. 2005. Squatina californica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2005: e.T39328A10202016. . Downloaded on 04 October 2015.
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