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Chimaera, like sharks, skates and rays, possess several biological characteristics that make them vulnerable to exploitation and population declines; they produce few young, attain sexual maturity at a late age, are very slow growing and have a long longevity. These characteristics are transferable to many shark and ray species and are described to be K-selective biological characteristics. In addition to these biological parameters, chimaera are deep dwelling species; making them even more at risk of human activities such as deep sea trawling and fishing activities.
With regards to British waters, many chimarea species are taken as bycatch in such locations as Hatton Bank, Rockall Bank and Rockall Trough as a result of deep water trawl fisheries in this area of the Northeast Atlantic. These fishing activities have shown a rapid increase since the 1990s, with the sustainability of deep sea fish stocks of overall concern. The chimarea species caught in these areas are often discarded due to individuals being of a small size, or are unmarketable due to damage; they have very low rates of discard survival given the depths of capture.
As of late there has been an increased interest in the utilisation of liver oils of chimearids and rhinochimaerids for cosmetic purposes and human consumption. Coupled with an increase in the commercial retention and market development of this species, this has suggested a developing industry demand for liver oil of these species both within Europe and worldwide.
Some species of chimaera are directly targeted commercially, such as the Elephantfish (Callorhinchus milii) in New Zealand. This particular species has supported a commercial trawl and set net fishery for several years, with landings reaching an average of 1,000 tonnes per year from 1955 – 744. The Elephantfish is an important fish food within New Zealand, being utilised within the fish and chip trade, and is also exported to many parts of Australia.
In addition many chimaera species appear on the IUCN Red List, with many being reported as near threatened with decreasing population trends as causes for concern. There are currently no management or conservational measures known to be put in place for any chimaera species, apart from the elephant fish in Australian waters, in which total allowable catch (TAC) limits have been implemented as well as a three mile closure of all Victorian waters to shark fishing.
The study and research of population size, age and growth of species as well as many other biological and reproductive characteristics for many species is recommended as high priority. Management and monitoring of catches and captures should also be of the utmost importance due to their biological vulnerability.
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