Shellfish reefs made up of oysters and mussels are prolific ‘fish factories’. Working just like coral reefs, they support the growth of important fish species whilst also helping to improve water quality and increase biodiversity. Yet since European settlement, we’ve lost almost all of our shellfish reefs- making these one of Australia’s most threatened marine habitats. We are restoring shellfish reefs to protect the health of our oceans and contribute to the recreational and economic vitality of our coastal communities.

Native shellfish reefs are currently considered “functionally extinct” ecosystems in Australia. Shellfish are ecosystem engineers that create conditions that allow many other plant and animal species in estuaries and coastal bays to thrive. Thus, these habitats are vital to the health of Australia’s bays and estuaries supporting fish production, improving water quality and reducing coastal erosion.

We are a community of restoration practitioners, researchers, educators and general shellfish enthusiasts that are raising awareness and advocating for shellfish reef restoration in Australia.

The Problem

Prior to the 20th century, shellfish reefs were common features of estuarine and coastal systems and were of importance as a food source for Indigenous Australians, with considerable quantities of reef-forming species occurring in coastal food middens. Early maritime explorers such as Cook, Flinders, Eyre and Vancouver regularly referred to extensive shellfish reefs in voyage reports and journals. From early European settlement of Australia, vast quantities of oysters and mussels were harvested for food and as a source of lime for mortar used in the early construction of roads and buildings.

Read
More

The Solution

Examples from the United States and elsewhere have demonstrated that when restoration occurs at large scales, ecological function can be repaired and ecosystem services can be restored. The process of restoring shellfish reefs can provide both short- and long-term employment opportunities and established reefs can provide long-term economic gains for coastal communities, particularly in fishing tourism and coastal protection. The benefits provided by shellfish reefs include food provision, water filtration, fish production, coastal protection and habitat for other species. Several projects (in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia) have recently begun the process of restoring shellfish reefs for the purpose of recovering a near extinct habitat and to improve fish habitat, water quality and coastal protection.

Read
More

Who's Involved

The Australian Shellfish Reef Restoration Network is a recently established Community of Practice which brings together organisations and individuals interested in shellfish reef education, conservation, restoration and management. The Network aims to improve awareness of shellfish reef habitat and educate the broader public on the value of shellfish habitat conservation and restoration. The Network also promotes communication, restoration training, policy and regulation, research and development and implementation amongst network members.

Read
More

Keep up to date

This website is funded by the Marine Biodiversity Hub, a collaborative partnership supported by the Australian Government's National Environmental Science Programme

  • Social
  • Social
  • News