Rabbit Fish at Lerwick

An unusual sight at Lerwick fish market on Tuesday was a deep-water rabbit fish, caught near Shetland.

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Rabbit Fish (Chimaera monstrosa)

Rabbit fish (or rat fish) are more usually found in deep water, from 300 to 500 metres, on the continental slope, although they do sometimes migrate into shallower water. This one was caught by the local whitefish trawler Defiant (LK 371) while fishing east of Unst.

Rabbit fish are sluggish, slow-moving, and poor swimmers and feed on crustaceans and molluscs which they crush  with teeth that are fused into bony plates. They have a large, mildly venomous spine in their dorsal fin which can deliver a painful wound. Like sharks and rays, to which they are distantly related, rabbit fish are cartilaginous with no bony skeleton.

Rabbit fish are caught commercially in Scottish waters in small quantities, mainly in the deep waters to the west of Scotland, but are rarely caught around Shetland.

Thanks to the Defiant's crew and the Lerwick fish market staff for retaining the specimen.

More details are available in the Discovery Zone section of the NAFC website: https://www.nafc.uhi.ac.uk/research/discovery-zone/rabbit-fish/.

For further information please contact Mark Hamilton (mark.hamilton@uhi.ac.uk , 01595 772000)