where 28,000 Australian Flat Oysters were laid upon the reconstructed reef base.
Construction of Yorke Peninsula Shellfish Reef where 28,000 Australian Flat Oysters were laid upon the reconstructed reef base. © Anita Nedosyko

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Monster South Australian reef gets stocked with oysters

After months of preparation, the new Windara Reef near Ardrossan on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula passed a new milestone recently when 28,000 Australian Flat Oysters were laid upon the reconstructed reef base.

The oyster deployment was timed to coincide with a gathering of shellfish restoration experts, resource managers, shellfish growers, community groups, and NGOs in Adelaide next week for a meeting of the Australian Shellfish Reef Restoration Network and the 19th International Conference on Shellfish Restoration.

This three day conference from 19-21st February will showcase Windara Reef and provide a forum that fosters partnerships, initiatives and exchanges of information necessary to further the science and practice of shellfish restoration efforts around the world.

Part of the first stage of the largest reef restoration project ever undertaken in Australia, Windara Reef will eventually span 20 hectares across the sea floor. Historically, shellfish reefs were common in the Yorke Peninsula region. Once complete, the reconstructed reef will provide food and habitat for fish and other marine life and improve water quality, contributing to a healthier marine environment.

“We helped the Department of Primary Industries and Regions SA build the first stage, four-hectare reef late last year using a mixture of materials including 60 precast concrete structures and 800 tonnes of limestone rocks,” explained project manager Anita Nedosyko, Marine Restoration Coordinator at The Nature Conservancy. “Today we’re really excited to be using Whyalla Diving Services to deploy thousands of farm grown native oysters amongst the crevices of those limestone rocks. Oysters will be placed onto the reef base from the surface through an 8-10 m long shoot directed by divers on the seafloor.”

Each of the oysters bound for a new life in the wild[1] on Windara Reef are a few years old and have reached a size of 10 – 100mm across – perfect for maximising their chances of survival and bringing back Australia’s most imperilled marine habitat to the Yorke Peninsula.

Taking any bottom dwelling creatures from the area, including oysters, is prohibited. This ban gives the oysters the best chance to settle and establish themselves, and their benefits for people and nature, on the reef. Anchoring boats in the area is also prohibited for this reason.

“The project is a partnership between the Australian Government through the National Stronger Regions Fund, the South Australian Government, the Nature Conservancy, Yorke Peninsula Council, RecFish SA and University of Adelaide. Financial support has also been provided by Ian Potter Foundation, the John T Reid Foundation, Good Thnx Foundation and several local entrepreneurs.”

The Nature Conservancy is investigating opportunities to build shellfish reefs in other locations – Australia once had up to 1,500 km of coastline covered in shellfish reefs. In this way we hope to keep South Australia at the forefront of large-scale marine habitat restoration which contributes to marine conservation efforts and regional economies.

[1] The necessary permit to release aquatic organisms has been issued by the Department of Primary Industries and Regions, South Australia (PIRSA).

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organisation dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we focus on getting things done efficiently and with the greatest positive impact for conservation. We’re a trusted organisation working in 72 countries on innovative solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We’re tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. To learn more about The Nature Conservancy in Australia, visit our website or follow us on Facebook.