'Shocking': Anger as fisheries impose complete Gladstone ban

THE reality of enjoying fresh, Queensland seafood could be torn away from foodies with scallop stocks now at crisis level.

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Fisheries Queensland are holding urgent meetings with commercial fishermen to outline new scallop fishing closure areas off Queensland's coast, including Gladstone.

The desperate attempt to reinvigorate the industry has caused concern among Gladstone chefs and seafood stockists.

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A recent study has shown scallop stocks are at an all-time low, at just 6% of the original biomass.

From January 3 next year, six replenishment areas located off the coast of Gladstone, Bundaberg and Rockhampton, will be closed to all scallop fishing.

Brass Bell Restaurant head chef Michael McClymont said scallops had become an expensive menu option, costing up to $50 a kilogram.

Scallop stocks are at 'crisis level' in Queensland.
Scallop stocks are at 'crisis level' in Queensland. Mike Knott

He said 10 years ago he would have paid $30 per kilogram.

"To hear something like this it brings uncertainty to everyone ... I hope that (the fisheries) have a plan for the future so we can continue to have scallops picked from Rockhampton to Bundaberg," he said.

"It would be a shame to lose fresh Queensland scallops."

Mr McClymont, who names scallops as one of his favourite types of seafood to eat, said this year had been the toughest yet for scallop supply.

He said at times they were unavailable or were of low-quality.

"This year it has become a concern with the size of the scallops being quite small ... I wouldn't give them to my worst enemy, and that's no offence to the fishermen, that's just the way the scallop industry is going," Mr McClymont said.

Fisheries Minister Bill Byrne said catch rates from January 2015 to April 2016 were the lowest in the 39-year record of catch rates.

"The latest data is so shocking we must take action and engage with the industry immediately about the direction the government intends to take," he said.

But Gladstone Fish Market owner Simon Whittingham said the decision to close the industry was irrational.

"They're making it more difficult to enjoy eating Queensland seafood," he said.

"They're restricting the availability to people like me, who love eating scallops, I don't want to eat imported, Queensland has the best scallops."

Gladstone Fish Market owner Simon Whittingham. More photos, on page 20.
Gladstone Fish Market owner Simon Whittingham. More photos, on page 20. Paul Braven

Mr Whittingham is against the closure of fisheries because he said it puts pressure on other seafood stocks.

Queensland Fisheries said the areas would remain closed "until further notice".

It's expected the closures will impact on up to 40% of the annual catch. Mr Byrne said the areas would be reopened when scallops were at sustainable levels.

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