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After extensive field trials, work commenced today on creating Victoria’s biggest ever reef reconstruction project. Working with partners – Fisheries Victoria and the Albert Park Yachting & Angling Club (APYAC) – The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is deploying 360 tonnes of limestone at Margaret’s Reef, 10 minutes off St Kilda in Hobson’s Bay, and at Wilsons Spit near Geelong.
Covering 600m2 in total across both reefs, the limestone will provide the foundation for 300,000 native Angasi oyster hatchlings that divers will spread evenly over the limestone next week.
Using techniques tried and proven in the US, The Nature Conservancy’s long-term goal is to restore new reefs that will become self-sustaining, healthy shellfish reef habitat throughout the bay. “Oysters are highly effective at filtering water – up to five litres per oyster per hour. This makes them excellent at improving water quality”, explains Dr Chris Gillies, Marine Manager at TNC Australia. “Over time, they also create a complex habitat for other shellfish and marine creatures which increases biodiversity, creates jobs, protects coastlines from storm surges and boosts fish stocks for recreational fishers.”
Shellfish reefs were once the dominant habitat over up to 50% of the seafloor of Port Phillip Bay but were wiped out by the 1980s due to over-exploitation. Our vision is to restore around 500 hectares of these lost reefs (equivalent to 700 soccer pitches) around the State, and we hope to continue to work with the Victorian Government to achieve this.
“Long serving club members noticed a decline in the bay’s shellfish reefs and their catches from where they once occurred, and they wanted to do something about it. So, we’re delighted to be part of this project with TNC and Fisheries Victoria”, said Phillip Langdon, President, Albert Park Yachting & Angling Club.
“We’re really excited to kick off Stage 2 of our project to restore these lost shellfish reefs for people and nature”, said Simon Branigan from TNC Australia, who is deeply involved in managing the project – literally. “Getting to dive soon in 10 metres of water to settle the young oysters on the limestone rubble will be a great thrill for all of us involved.”
You can find out more about our Australian shellfish reef projects here.