Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Critically Endangered Angelshark Focus of Research Appeal

6th March 2023
Angelsharks are now a critically endangered species in Irish waters
Angelsharks are now a critically endangered species in Irish waters

Fiddle-fish, Banjofish and Devilfish are all names given to a species of shark native to Ireland which is now as endangered as the Giant panda or Bengal tiger.

The Angelshark once lived in abundance on sandy and muddy seabed areas on the Irish coastline but is now confined to Tralee Bay, Co Kerry, while the Canary islands are one of their last “strongholds” in Europe.

Now fishers, coastal farmers, walkers and “passionate individuals” are being asked to report new sightings or report past records of the Angelshark - also known locally as monkfish and bearing the Latin name Squatina squatina - as part of a national research project.

Marine scientists Louise Overy and Dr Kevin Flannery of Mara Beo in Dingle, Co Kerry, explain that Irish waters are “home to a vast and incredible array” of marine life, including 80 different species of the elasmobranch sub-class of fish - sharks, skates and rays.

Marine scientist Louise Overy who is leading the Angelshark research project Marine scientist Louise Overy who is leading the Angelshark research project 

One-third are considered at risk of extinction, and the Angelshark is regarded as “critically endangered”.

The Angel Shark Project: Ireland is led by the Irish Elasmobranch Group, and is being run in partnership with Natural Resources Wales, Zoological Society of London, Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change and Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Inland Fisheries Ireland, University College Dublin, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Marine Institute and Mara Beo are also collaborating.

The project has been supported by the Shark Conservation Fund, Overy says.

Using historic records, the group hopes to identify important areas for Angelsharks across Ireland and gather vital information on their ecology and life history.

The aim is to develop an action plan which supports their recovery for future generations – a “community-led recovery”, Overy says.

A website is currently being developed,, and the Irish Elasmobranch Group can also be contacted on Facebook or by email at [email protected]

Published in Marine Wildlife
Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!