Rhinochimaera pacifica 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Chondrichthyes Chimaeriformes Rhinochimaeridae

Scientific Name: Rhinochimaera pacifica
Species Authority: (Mitsukuri, 1895)
Common Name(s):
English Pacific Spookfish, Knifenose Chimaera
Taxonomic Notes: Colour variation has been noted in this species with specimens from the northwest Pacific (Japan) noticeably darker in overall colour than those from the southwest Pacific (New Zealand) (Didier and Nakaya 1999). The distinction between R. atlantica and R. pacifica is problematic and solely based on the number of caudal tubercles, a highly variable and often overlapping characteristic (tends to be greater in R. atlantica). Resolution on the distinction of these two species will require examination of larger series of specimens and potentially molecular data (Compagno et al. 1990).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-05-05
Assessor(s): Dagit, D.D. & Kyne, P.M.
Reviewer(s): Walls, R.H.L. & Dulvy, N.K.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Kyne, P.M. & Walls, R.H.L.
In the western Pacific Ocean, the Pacific Spookfish (Rhinochimaera pacifica) is known from the Japanese Archipelago and the East China Sea, off southern Australia, and New Zealand, and in the eastern Pacific it is known from off Peru. Although capture records indicate a sporadic distribution, the species may in fact be more widely distributed throughout the Pacific. Habitat appears to be primarily deepwater troughs and plateaus at depths of 191 to 1,290 m, although it is most commonly found below 700 m. Nothing is known of population structure or reproduction although it is likely this species shares similar life history traits with the Straightnose Rabbitfish (R. atlantica). The Pacific Spookfish is a bycatch of Australian and New Zealand commercial deepwater trawl fisheries for species such as Orange Roughy, and at least in southern Australia, some amounts are retained. However, a large amount of its habitat is outside the reach of fisheries and it finds refuge at depth. The closure of the South Tasman Rise Fishery (Australia) and the closure of most areas below 700 m to trawling in southeast Australia would limit catches. Little information is available on catches outside of Australia and New Zealand, but overall the species is wide-ranging with occurrence in considerable areas of unfished habitat and is thus assessed as Least Concern. Collection of basic data on size, sex and depth from all incidental captures of this species is recommended in order to obtain minimal information on population structure, size and life history. Furthermore, the monitoring of any bycatch of the species is required.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2006 Least Concern (LC)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Pacific Spookfish is most commonly known from the Northwest and Southwest Pacific, primarily from the Japanese Archipelago and the East China Sea, and off southern New Zealand and southern Australia (Inada and Garrick 1979, Didier and Nakaya 1999, Last and Stevens 2009). It occurs across southern Australia including the South Tasman Rise as well as the Norfolk Ridge (Last and Stevens 2009). Reported only from Peru in the eastern Pacific but may occur more widely in deepwater troughs and plateaus throughout the entire Pacific Ocean.
Countries occurrence:
Australia (New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia); China; Japan; New Zealand; Peru; Taiwan, Province of China
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – southeast; Pacific – southwest; Pacific – northwest
Lower depth limit (metres): 1290
Upper depth limit (metres): 191
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Nothing is known of population size or structure, but capture records consist only of adults or subadult juveniles indicating possible aggregation of adults and juveniles in different habitats.
Current Population Trend: Unknown
Additional data:

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The habitat of the Pacific Spookfish appears to be primarily deepwater troughs and plateaus at depths of 191 to 1,290 m, although it is most commonly found below 700 m. Off southern Australia it is reported from 760 to 1,290 m (Last and Stevens 2009). Maximum size is about 130 cm total length (62 cm body length; BDL) with females generally larger than males. It appears that sexual maturity in males and females is reached at ~50 cm BDL. Oviparous, but nothing is known of the reproductive biology (Last and Stevens 2009). Probably shares similar life history traits with the Straightnose Rabbitfish (R. atlantica).
Systems: Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery, around half (48%) of the annual catch is retained (Walker and Gason 2007) and utilized for its flesh.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The Pacific Spookfish is not known to be commercially targeted but is taken as bycatch in deepwater commercial trawls, although they are recorded deeper than the reach of most fisheries.

In Australian waters, the species is caught in low numbers in the Southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery with 48% of the annual catch retained (Walker and Gason 2007), however, most areas below 700 m depth are closed to trawling in this fishery (Georgeson et al. 2014) which would provide refuge for this species. A study of the bycatch of the South Tasman Rise Trawl Fishery (STRF) did not record this species in 545 tows between November 1998 and September 2000, and hence it does not appear to be encountered by this fishery (Anderson and Clark 2003). The STRF has been closed since 2007 due to stock depletion of Orange Roughy (Patterson and Mazur 2014).

In New Zealand, the Pacific Spookfish is a bycatch of deepwater trawl fisheries, with bycatch trends increasing between 1990-91 and 2010-11 (MPI 2013). As little trawling occurs >1,200 m around New Zealand, the species would find refuge at depth. It is also likely taken as a bycatch of deepwater trawl fisheries off Japan.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Off southeast Australia, the closure of most areas below 700 m depth provides refuge for the species (Georgeson et al. 2014). The southern Australian range of the species overlaps with some marine protected areas in the Commonwealth Marine Reserve network.

Citation: Dagit, D.D. & Kyne, P.M. 2015. Rhinochimaera pacifica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T60146A68642001. . Downloaded on 27 November 2015.
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