Birch Aquarium is home to two Pacific Angel Sharks. You can find this unique species of shark in Shark Shores. Photo: Wave Moretto.

International Angel Shark Days

Flat Features are Fin-tastic

Can you spot the angel shark? Yes, there is a shark in this photo …

Angel sharks are a unique species of shark that stand out — or should we say blend in — thanks to their flat features, sandy brown coloration and scattered spots. This shark lives on the sandy seafloor, almost disappearing when buried in the sand. An ambush predator, angel sharks lie in wait for unsuspecting small fish to swim just a little too close, and when the time is right, they’ll strike! They’ll lunge forward, open their mouths wide and extend their powerful jaws to suction up their prey in a blink of an eye.

Ever seen an angel shark in action? It’s a pretty incredible sight. Check out some fin-tastic footage of our aquarists feeding our two Pacific Angel Sharks in Shark Shores! All of our sharks and rays in Shark Shores are target fed individually so our aquarists to know how much each individual is eating. We feed our sharks and rays a variety of food like clams, mackerel and even squid!

Pacific Angel Shark

There are currently 23 known species of angel shark found worldwide! Many have overlapping ranges and look very similar, so it’s a bit challenging to distinguish from one another.

Here in Southern California, our local species is the Pacific Angel Shark. This species is found from southern Alaska down to Baja California and the Gulf of Mexico. In the 1980’s, we witnessed a rapid decline of Pacific Angel Shark populations due to the commercial fishing industry. However, once limits were set on the minimum catchable size for angel sharks and gillnet fishing was banned inshore of three miles, their population started to recover. Today, the Pacific Angel Shark is listed as Near Threatened on The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN). While we’re celebrating the success of our local Pacific Angel Shark, this is not the case for the majority of angel shark species.

Angel sharks shown camouflaged by being buried in the sand.
(left) A Pacific Angel Shark patiently waits on the sandy seafloor for unsuspecting prey to swim its way. (right) To help stay buried in the sand for an extended period, these sharks have spiracles. Spiracles are located directly behind their eyes and act as special pumps that move water over their gills to ensure oxygen is delivered directly to the brain. Photos: Wave Moretto.

Help Protect Angel Sharks

That’s why this International Angel Shark Day, we’re putting the spotlight on this iconic shark species to raise awareness. Angel sharks may be skilled at the art of camouflage, but even they can’t hide from threats like climate change, habitat loss and unsustainable fishing practices. Also, so much is still unknown about the life history and worldwide distribution of angel sharks, making it hard to inform conservation efforts. 

Angel shark identification poster.
Angel shark identification poster. This resource is provided by Shark Trust and the Angel Shark Conservation Network.

Fortunately, organizations like The Angel Shark Conservation Network (ASCN) are working with partners worldwide to deliver actions set out in the Action Plan and Strategy. Many global efforts are also in effect to protect angel sharks from overfishing. Studies show that sustainable fisheries help to protect shark and ray populations through science-based catch limits, bycatch reduction and habitat protection! Many countries have also adopted special protection acts for several Angel Shark species. To learn more about how you can support and protect angel sharks be sure to visit ASCN’s website at