A Local Angle on Angel Sharks

Photo by Daniel Gotshall

To present an alternative to the Discovery Channel's Shark Week (and cult TV movies like Sharknado), Heal the Bay staff write about the marine animals they love so much. The general public has been fed terrifying misconceptions about these creatures, and our mission is to raise awareness about the unique and important role sharks play in our local ocean ecosystem.

Through our Angler Outreach Program, Heal the Bay engages fishermen throughout the Santa Monica Bay area to teach anglers about fish contamination. In the process, we also learn about different types of fish and sharks these fishermen catch from the piers, including the Pacific angel shark (Squatina californica).

The angel shark can be observed in shallow waters from Alaska to southern California and from Ecuador to Chile. The forward part is flattened and the rear part similar to the other sharks, eyes and gill openings are at the top, pectoral and pelvic fins are large and horizontally, have two dorsal fins and the lower lobe of the caudal fin is larger than the upper lobe.

They can grow up to five feet long and produce litters of up to 13 pups.

They look harmless, but if disturbed in their natural environment, can cause serious injuries with their bite, as they possess powerful and flexible jaws.

Valued for their meat during the '80s, California’s angel shark populations were devastated by overfishing. Educational programs for conservation have played a very important role in our environment to protect this and other species of sharks.

Although sightings remain rare, angel sharks have been reported by our educational outreach team members at Santa Monica and Venice piers.

Watch a video of an angel shark feeding.

--Frankie Orrala, Angler Outreach Program Manager