Through the launch of the new EDGE Sharks & Rays list we hope to highlight the most threatened and unique sharks and rays on the planet, so that we can target conservation efforts where it’s needed most. Many are overlooked and poorly known, so conservation actions targeted at these survivors of ancient lineages should be prioritised.
As the EDGE of Existence HQ is in London, UK, we wanted to celebrate some of these incredible sharks that can be found right on our own doorstep. Enjoy!
By Charlie Debenham, EDGE Fellowship Coordinator
1. Basking shark Cetorhinus maximus, EDGE rank 23
Reaching lengths of over 30ft and weighing in at over 9000lb, basking sharks are the largest fish found in UK waters and the second largest living species of fish in the world. Basking sharks are slow-moving filter feeders with mouths over a metre wide, and can often be found ‘basking’ in the warmer waters near the surface. They are known to draw closer to land during the summer, and, to the eagle-eyed among us, can sometimes be spotted from the shore.
Find out more about the Basking shark.
2. Shortfin Mako Isurus oxyrinchus, EDGE rank 47
Shortfin mako sharks are believed to be one of the fastest swimming sharks in the world. Although they are currently rare in British waters, rising sea temperatures could make their presence more common. Shortfin makos are closely related to porbeagle sharks, though while porbeagles are typically found miles offshore the shortfin mako is known to swim closer to land. Despite its size, shortfin mako are unlikely to attack humans unless they are provoked.
Find out more about the Shortfin Mako.
3. Common Thresher shark Alopias vulpinus, EDGE rank 51
The common thresher shark is a migratory species that can be found in UK waters in the summer months. Thresher sharks use their incredibly long tails to swipe at and stun their prey. The largest thresher shark ever recorded was caught in British waters, weighing an eye-watering 1250lb, and measuring 32ft long. Thresher sharks are targeted by commercial and recreational fisheries and their populations have collapsed in some areas, leading it to be classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN.
4. Porbeagle shark Lamna nasus, EDGE rank 46
Porbeagles can be found in deep waters all around the UK, usually several miles offshore. Porbeagles can grow to up to 12ft and weigh up to 600lbs, and though they are physically capable of attacking humans they very rarely do so. There have been no confirmed cases of a porbeagle killing a human, though “attacks” have been reported when a shark which has been caught retaliates.
Find out more about the Porbeagle shark.
5. Angel shark Squatina squatina, EDGE rank 5
The critically endangered angel shark is also rare in British waters, but there is believed to be a remnant population in the Celtic sea area of the Atlantic ocean, and they are occasionally observed off the southern and western coasts of the British Isles. Angel sharks are ambush predators who camouflage themselves on the sea bed to attack prey, though this unfortunately makes them particularly vulnerable to trawl fishing.
Find out more about the Angel shark.
6. Tope shark Galeorhinus galeus, EDGE rank 45
Tope sharks are slim yet powerful sharks that are widespread throughout UK waters. In the early 20th century it was targeted by large scale fisheries due to the high vitamin A oil content of its liver, and for its skin which was made into leather. Although many fisheries stopped targeting the tope shark after its population decline, it still is a significant part of some Australian commercial fisheries.
Find out more about the Tope shark.
7. Kitefin shark Dalatias licha, EDGE rank 44
The Kitefin shark is considered to be endangered in European waters, though it is found throughout deep water areas worldwide, generally being found down to 1000 metres below sea level. Kitefin sharks can be found in the North Sea, off the eastern coasts of the UK. Commercial pressures and bycatch have reduced its numbers across its range.
Find out more about the Kitefin shark.