Overview

Comprehensive Description

Biology

This species is found throughout the year in coastal waters.
  • Soto, J.M.R. 2001 Annotated systematic checklist and bibliography of the coastal and oceanic fauna of Brazil. I. Sharks. Mare Magnum 1(1):51-119. (Ref. 53443)
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Distribution

Range Description

Squatina punctata is an endemic species of the Southwest Atlantic occurring from 24°S (Rio de Janeiro, southern Brazil) through Uruguay to 43°S (northern Patagonia, Argentina). Gosztonyi (1981) recorded specimens of Squatina spp. from 47°S, which may be this species, however this requires confirmation.
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Southwest Atlantic: southern Brazil to Argentina.
  • Soto, J.M.R. 2001 Annotated systematic checklist and bibliography of the coastal and oceanic fauna of Brazil. I. Sharks. Mare Magnum 1(1):51-119. (Ref. 53443)
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Western South Atlantic.
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Physical Description

Size

Max. size

87.0 cm TL (male/unsexed; (Ref. 57911)); 91 cm TL (female)
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Squatina punctata is a relatively small, bottom-dwelling shark. In Brazil the species occurs mostly at depths of 10 to 80 m at bottom temperatures of 10 to 22°C (Compagno in prep). Cousseau (1973) refers to captures of S. punctata from the coast to 150 m in Argentinean waters, Gosztonyi (1981) at depths of 26 to 135 m, and Menni et al. (1981) at 22 to 121 m.

Aplacental yolksac viviparous with one functional ovary. Reproduction begins in both males and females at about 70 to 80 cm TL (Cousseau 1973, Vooren and Silva 1991, Compagno in prep). Maximum size is 91 to 92 cm TL (Compagno in prep., Silva 1996). Number of embryos per litter is 3 to 8 (Vooren and Silva 1991, Compagno in prep). The breeding cycle of the female lasts at least two years. S. punctata migrates in spring to shallow coastal waters where the females give birth and where small juveniles occur all year round (Vooren and Silva 1991).

Systems
  • Marine
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Environment

demersal; marine; depth range 10 - 100 m (Ref. 57911)
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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

3-9 embryos, only the left ovary is functional.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
A2bd

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2007

Assessor/s
IUCN Shark Specialist Group

Reviewer/s
Musick, J.A. & Kyne, P.M. (Shark Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
Preface: In acknowledgment of unresolved and controversial taxonomic and nomenclatural issues, the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group has assessed all nominal Southwest Atlantic Squatina species, until such time as agreement is reached on these issues (see taxonomy section for further details). Assessed species are: longfin or Argentine angel shark Squatina argentina (Marini, 1930); spiny angel shark Squatina guggenheim Marini, 1936; shortfin angel shark Squatina occulta Vooren & Silva, 1991; and, angular angel shark Squatina punctata Marini, 1936.

Squatina punctata is endemic to the Southwest Atlantic from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (24°S) through Uruguay to northern Patagonia, Argentina (43°S) on the shelf at 10 to 150 m depth. The species' low reproductive potential (litter size of 3 to 9 and triennial female breeding cycle) together with its vulnerability to both trawl and gillnet gear makes it highly susceptible to population depletion. Angel sharks are heavily fished in southern Brazil and significant declines have been documented there. An angel shark bottom gillnet fishery commenced around 1990 and at present large amounts of angel shark is caught this way. Research trawl surveys of the outer shelf in the years 1986/87 and 2001/02 confirmed that in southern Brazil the abundance of angel shark had decreased by ~85%, which was attributed to recruitment overfishing. In Argentina, landings of angel shark have shown a negative trend since 1998 after the catch peaked. Catches there consist apparently almost entirely of S. guggenheim. Given that intensive fisheries occur throughout the species' range, together with its vulnerability to depletion, and the evidence that off Brazil, fishing has reduced previously abundant stocks of angel sharks to 15% of original levels, S. punctata is assessed as Endangered. In the first instance, the resolution of taxonomic and nomenclatural issues, in order to accurately define the occurrence, distribution and declines of individual species, is paramount to the conservation of Southwest Atlantic angel sharks.
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Population

Population
Although the species lives in a geographical continuum of about 20 degrees of latitude, the range is probably composed of local populations each with its own inshore-offshore migration pattern within their local temperature regime. One such population exists in southern Brazil. These local populations can be extirpated by fishing activities. Shallow inshore regions are important as nursery grounds throughout the geographical range of the species.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The nocturnal habits of angel sharks render them vulnerable to bottom gillnets, and increases in captures during the 1990s are attributed to the introduction of this gear on the shelf and slope off southern Brazil at that time. Gillnets were reported as six times more effective at catching angel sharks than trawling alone (Vooren and Klippel 2005).

Gravid angel shark females have been observed to abort embryos easily upon capture, further reducing the reproductive capacity (Vooren and Klippel 2005). A low rate of dispersal between populations also makes them especially prone to local depletion and means that recolonisation will be extremely low. Furthermore, pupping and nursery areas in Brazil occur in shallow inshore waters at depths of
Fishery landing statistics of "angel shark" in southern Brazil refer to Squatina species combined. Annual catches of angel shark from the continental shelf peaked at about 2,000 t in 1986 to 1989 and again in 1993, and then decreased to 900 t in 2003. Angel shark CPUE by otter trawl and pair trawl on the continental shelf decreased by about 85% from 1984 to 2002 (Miranda and Vooren 2003, CEPERG 2003, GEP/CTTMar 2003, Vooren and Klippel 2005).

Additionally, an angel shark bottom gillnet fishery on the outer shelf commenced around 1990 and at present large amounts of angel shark are caught this way (Miranda and Vooren 2003). Research trawl surveys of the outer shelf in the years 1986/87 and 2001/02 confirmed that in southern Brazil the abundance of angel shark has decreased to 15% of its original level and this is attributed to recruitment overfishing primarily due to the bottom gillnet fishery (Vooren and Lamónaca 2002, Vooren and Klippel 2005).

In Argentina, the shark bycatch from gillnet and bottom trawl fleets targeting species such as school shark, croakers and flatfishes is poorly known. However, Cousseau (1973), based on Nani and Gonzalez Alberdi (1966), estimated Squatina as 6% of the total weight of the catches of the coastal bottom trawling fleet. The predominant size in these catches was about 70 to 80 cm TL; small sizes (25 to 45 cm TL) were uncommon. Cousseau (1973), based on García Cabrejos and Malaret (1969) calculated the total landings of angel shark in Mar del Plata harbour in 1964 to be 1,074 MT and 2,355 MT in 1965. Otero et al. (1982) considered the angel sharks to be species with a low concentration on the Buenos Aires coast, with an annual biomass for 1981/2 estimated at 4,050 tons. However, in 1991 as much as 4,167 MT were taken, and 4,281 MT in 1996. Chiaramonte (1998) stated that the angel sharks were the second most important fish landed by the gillnet fleet of Puerto Quequen. Total captures of angel sharks in Argentina oscillated around 1,000 MT between 1979 and 1984 then increased to maximums of over 4,000 MT in the 1990s. Catches consist almost entirely of S. guggenheim. Peaks were reached in 1997 and 1998, before landings dropped in 2002 to 2,000 MT, rising again in 2003 to 3,550 MT (Massa et al. 2004). Thus there has been an overall negative trend in landings during the period 1998 to 2003 (Massa et al. 2004). Furthermore, Vooren and Klippel (2005) (citing Massa and Hozbor 2003) suggested a 58% decline in the CPUE of angel shark in the coastal bottom trawl fleet.

In Uruguay there is little direct fishing for angel sharks, but they are taken as bycatch in industrial and artisanal fisheries. The estimated capture has been 300 to 400 MT per year since 1997. There are no statistics by species, but largest captures probably correspond to S. guggenheim and S. argentina (A. Domingo pers. comm).
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Endangered (EN) (A2bd)
  • IUCN 2006 2006 IUCN red list of threatened species. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded July 2006.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Since 1992 there has been a Maximum Permitted Catch (MPC) for angel shark in Argentina which was 6,000 MT in the years 1995 to 1999 and thereafter was reduced to 4,000 MT (Massa et al. 2003). In Brazil there is no control of the shelf angel shark fishery, and although trawling in inshore waters is prohibited, enforcement of this regulation is difficult.

Vooren and Klippel (2005) recommend the protection of the coastal nursery grounds in southern Brazil (waters south of 32°30'S) from fishing as an essential measure for the conservation of this species.
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