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MMO staff give rare shark to Natural History Museum

Image of the angel shark being handed to staff from the Natural History Museum by Pete Edwards from the Marine Management Organisation in Plymouth

MMO Marine Officer, Pete Edwards (centre) from the Plymouth office handing over the rare angel shark to Natural History Museum fish curators Oliver Crimmen (left) and James Maclaine (right). Photo courtesy of BBC Devon.

Marine Management Organisation marine officers in Plymouth recently discovered a rare angel shark while inspecting fish market sales.

The shark was mistakenly being sold as a more common fish, but officers recognised it as a protected species. In April 2008 the angel shark was given full protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and is listed as "critically endangered".

We contacted the Natural History Museum to ensure such a rare species in English waters could be documented, and Oliver Crimmen, Senior Fish Curator at the museum, collected the rare find.

Mr Crimmen said "We'll take a tissue sample, look at its DNA and then preserve the whole body in alcohol to go into the national collection for future scientific study, hopefully for hundreds of years."

District Marine Officer, Julian Roberts, said "It is important that experts get access to these specimens so they can be properly documented."

He added "We are always concerned when a protected species is landed, and have contacted the fisherman - who it is believed accidentally landed the shark as by-catch - to make him aware of the restrictions."