finds evidence of lost oyster reefs off Dromana, Victoria
Ben Cleveland finds evidence of lost oyster reefs off Dromana, Victoria © Simon Branigan/TNC

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New shellfish reefs in Port Phillip Bay to double

Boosted funding for The Nature Conservancy’s highly successful shellfish reef restoration project in Port Phillip Bay will build even more new reefs for Melbourne’s much loved waterway. 

Thanks to the generous support of three organisations, an extra $1.1 million will allow new reefs to be established within the Bay, doubling the extent of restored reefs from 2.5 hectares to 5.5 hectares. 

  • $300,000 from the Ross Trust towards a new reef off the Mornington Peninsula.
  • $300,000 from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation towards a new reef at 9ft Bank, Geelong.
  • $500,000 from the Victorian Government’s Target One Million fund towards these new reefs and the continued restoration of reefs near Geelong and St Kilda.

“We’re really excited to make this announcement which will allow us to continue our work in restoring the lost shellfish reefs of Port Phillip Bay,” said Dr Chris Gillies, Oceans Lead at The Nature Conservancy. “One of the new reefs will be our first on the Mornington Peninsula side of the Bay. The new site at 9ft Bank in Geelong Arm will trial a new restoration technique not attempted before in Australia.”

9ft Bank is an old, degraded shellfish reef and the closest The Nature Conservancy has found to a surviving shellfish reef in Victoria. Up to 99% of the original shellfish reefs – that once covered around half the seafloor of Port Phillip Bay – have been lost to over exploitation. At 9ft Bank we will be deploying recycled shells from restaurants as a way of rebuilding this reef back to its former glory. We believe there are enough remnant Australian Flat Oysters in the area to naturally colonise the new recycled shell reef base without needing to add young hatchery-raised oysters as we do elsewhere.

Shellfish reefs provide a range of public benefits such as cleaner water and more fish for everyone. Rebuilding reefs helps grow the local economy by providing a variety of coastal jobs in regional areas and sustaining marine dependant industries like fisheries, aquaculture, ecotourism and recreation.

The Port Phillip Bay project is part of a long standing partnership between The Nature Conservancy, the Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club, and the Victorian Government. 

Port Phillip Bay’s new shellfish reefs are part of The Nature Conservancy’s National Reef Building Project that aims to rebuild 60 reefs across soputhern Australia. If achieved, it will make Australia the first nation in the world to recover a critically endangered marine ecosystem. Projects in Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay, South Australia’s Gulf St Vincent and Western Australia’s Oyster Harbour are in advanced stages of reconstruction with others getting underway in and near Perth, WA and Noosa, Queensland.

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 70 countries 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.