As global fishing effort increasingly expands into deeper water, concerns exist over the ability of deep-sea fishes to sustain fisheries. There is however little quantitative evidence to support these concerns for the deep-sea cartilaginous fishes (Chondrichthyes: sharks, rays and chimaeras). This paper compiled available life history data for this group to analyse their ability to rebound from population declines relative to continental shelf and pelagic species. Deep-sea cartilaginous fishes have rates of population increase that are on average less than half those of shelf and pelagic species, and include the lowest levels observed to date. Population doubling times indicate that once a stock has been depleted, it will take decades, and potentially centuries, before it will recover. Furthermore, population recovery rates decrease with increasing depth, suggesting species that occur deepest are those most vulnerable to fishing. These results provide the first assessment of the productivity of deep-sea chondrichthyans, highlighting that precautionary management of developing deep-sea fisheries is essential if stocks and biodiversity are to be maintained.