This 2015 status review report conducted in response to a petition received from WildEarth…
About the Species
The Argentine angelshark is a cartilaginous fish, similar to a ray or skate. The species once occurred in the shallow tropical waters of the central western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, from Venezuela to northern Brazil, making it one of the smallest ranges of any elasmobranch species. It no longer occurs in areas of Brazil where it was previously common. Recent records of the species throughout the rest of its range are scarce. The main threat to the Argentine angelshark is bycatch in commercial fisheries operating in its core habitat for other commercially important fish. In 2017, NOAA Fisheries listed the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
ESA Endangered - Foreign
- Throughout Its Range
The Argentine angelshark is a flat shark. Its body is a dark to purplish brown color with small, round white spots symmetrically distributed across the entire dorsal surface. The dorsal surface is also densely covered with dermal denticles, which are small teeth-like scales. The pectoral fins are large and twice as wide as they are long, making them very broad. The anterior margins of the pectoral fins are strongly curved, creating a visible ‘‘shoulder’’ area at the base of the head.
Behavior and Diet
The Argentine angelshark is thought to be a sit-and-wait predator, lying motionless on the bottom until prey pass closely overhead. The prey is then grasped by an upward bite. There is limited information regarding the Argentine angelshark diet, but one study showed that fish made up the large majority of the species’ diet, followed by crustaceans and mollusks.
Where They Live
The Argentine angelshark can be found in the Southwest Atlantic from southern Brazil (from Rio de Janeiro southward) to at least the northern part of Argentina (i.e., Buenos Aires). This species lives on muddy or sandy bottom substrates on the continental shelf and slope at depths between 38 and 204 feet with a principal depth range of 49 to 160 feet.
Lifespan & Reproduction
Little is known about the growth and reproduction of Argentine angelsharks as pregnant females and newborns are rarely found. Gestation is lecithotrophic meaning developing embryos depend on yolk for nutrition, and litter sizes range from 7 to 11 pups with 9 or 10 being most common. The Argentine angelshark’s reproductive cycle is thought to be biannual.
The primary threat to Argentine angelsharks is overutilization by commercial fisheries, particularly the trawl and bottom gillnet fisheries in Brazil, where the species is likely most concentrated. The species is reported as a significant bycatch species in the commercial monkfish fishery, which likely contributed to a significant decline in the population in the early 2000s.
In 2013, NOAA Fisheries received a petition (PDF, 538 pages) to list the Argentine angelshark as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. In our 90-day finding, we concluded that the petitioned action may be warranted. After completing a status review, we proposed to list the species as endangered and requested comments from the public. In 2017, NOAA Fisheries listed the Argentine angelshark as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
Regulatory Actions & Documents
- Final Rule (82 FR 21722, May 10, 2017)
- Proposed Rule (80 FR 76067, December 7, 2015)
- 90-day finding on petition to list 25 fish species (79 FR 10104, February 24, 2014)