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. We are restoring shellfish reefs to protect the health of our oceans and contribute to the recreational and economic vitality of our coastal communities.
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.
Momentum is continuing to build, with a number of other shellfish reef restoration projects expected to begin across Australia within the next 12-24 months.
Given the need for further knowledge on the ecology and function of Australian shellfish reefs, increasing public awareness of their historic loss and growing appetite for restoration, we recommend 12 key actions that can be undertaken by government, researchers, not-for-profit organisations and the community in order to ensure their conservation and long-term success of shellfish reef restoration efforts:
These actions combined with long-term financial and community support for individual restoration projects will serve to underpin the repair and conservation of Australia’s shellfish reefs and will improve the overall health and resilience of Australia’s environmental, social and economically important bays and estuaries.