Marine life
Gippsland Lakes marine life Marine life © EGCMA Sean Phillipson

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Gippsland Lakes welcome shellfish reefs to restore the environmental, social and economic benefits

The Nature Conservancy Australia (TNC), in partnership with the Australian Government and with support from the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (EGCMA) are excited to announce the upcoming construction of shellfish reefs in the Gippsland Lakes. The shellfish reefs will support the broader ‘Love our Lakes’ initiative which fosters a shared responsibility in caring for the Lakes and catchment.

Construction commenced in March 2022, with the placement of local rock material on the bed of the Gippsland Lakes, to provide a new reef base foundation. The reef bases will then be seeded with baby Australian Flat Oysters, grown in a hatchery from adult oysters collected from the lakes. These baby oysters will continue to grow in the lakes and attach to the reef base and each other. Over time, they will create a living reef which further attracts a diversity of fish and aquatic life. Recruitment of Blue Mussels is expected to occur naturally overtime.

Across Victoria, Blue Mussel and Australian Flat Oyster reefs were once abundant, but are now scarcely found. The Gippsland Lakes region is unique in that some Blue Mussel reefs remain, but no Australian Flat Oyster reefs are currently found in the lakes.

“By restoring shellfish reefs in the Gippsland Lakes, the project will help improve water quality, with each hectare of oyster reef filtering on average 2.7 billion litres of water per year,” Scott Breschkin, Ocean Project Coordinator for Victoria at The Nature Conservancy Australia, said. “The reefs will also provide food and shelter for many marine species and new recreational fishing opportunities.”

“The Gippsland Lakes have significant conservation values, due to the habitat they provide for wildlife, including expansive seagrass meadows. We are very excited to contribute to the overall health of such an iconic and important place for nature and people. Up to 5 hectares of shellfish reef habitat in the lakes will be restored, with an initial focus on a reef of up to 2 hectares near Nyerimilang,” Mr Breschkin said.

Gippsland Lakes is one of thirteen sites identified for reef restoration under Reef Builder, a $20 million partnership between the Australian Government and TNC Australia to bring shellfish reefs back from the brink of extinction and support the economic recovery of communities impacted by bushfires and COVID-19 restrictions. 

This project is part of TNC’s larger national shellfish restoration program that aims to rebuild 60 shellfish ecosystems across Australia. If achieved, Australia will be the first nation in the world to have recovered a critically endangered marine ecosystem.

If you would like to know more about our reef restoration work in the Gippsland Lakes, please visit: natureaustralia.org.au/gippslandlakes

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 more than 70 countries and territories around the world on innovative solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. To learn more about The Nature Conservancy in Australia, follow us on Facebook.