swans on water
Canning River Conservation Reserve Waterford © Tony Jupp


Works to restore up to 8 ha of native shellfish reefs gets underway to help improve the health of the Swan-Canning Estuary

Media Contacts

The Nature Conservancy Australia (TNC) is leading an exciting shellfish reef restoration project in the Swan-Canning Estuary, with construction of one of its largest shellfish reefs commencing this week.

The project is a collaborative partnership led by TNC, with generous funding support provided by Lotterywest, the Minderoo Foundation, Western Australia’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), the Australian Government’s Reef Builder initiative, as well as Jock Clough, Adrian & Michela Fini, Austral Fisheries, Gavin Bunning, The McCusker Foundation, Major Holdings Pty Ltd, the Ungar Family and Michael & Margrete Chaney.  Whadjuk Noongar Traditional Owners have provided invaluable input to the project, along with key management agencies and stakeholders across government, industry, academia and the broader community. 

Alison Rowe, TNC’s Managing Director, said this was a significant milestone for the mussel reef restoration project in the Swan-Canning, as well as the national Reef Builder program. "The mussel reef will help support the health of Perth’s iconic Swan-Canning Estuary, while boosting the recovery of shellfish reef ecosystems across southern Australia. We are delighted to work with a fantastic range of partners and donors on this amazing project,” said Ms Rowe.

Andrew Bossie, TNC’s Oceans Project Coordinator for the Swan-Canning Estuary, said that the project will focus on restoring key ecosystem functions provided by Blue Mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) reefs in the lower estuary. “Subtidal limestone reef structures will be built across an area of up to 8-hectares to provide a suitable surface for seeding with around 4 million mussels. These reef structures will also provide great habitat for a wide diversity of other aquatic life to settle and grow,” said Mr Bossie.

“Rebuilding mussel reefs will help improve the health of the estuary through filtering millions of litres of water, and will help increase fish productivity.  It is estimated that one hectare of fully restored reef can filter about 1 billion litres of estuary water a year. So far, the trial reefs in the estuary are displaying great signs of development and are teeming with fish, invertebrates and plant life,” said Mr Bossie. 

“The restored reef will play a central role in the rehabilitation of a thriving marine ecosystem in the Swan-Canning Estuary,” said Federal Member for Swan, Zaneta Mascarenhas MP.

Kerry Trayler, the Principal Scientist (Rivers and Estuaries) from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) said it was anticipated this project would create new habitat and enhance biodiversity in the lower Swan. “This project offers innovative approaches contributing to water quality management and will enhance socio-cultural values of the Riverpark,” said Dr Trayler.

Lotterywest and Healthway CEO Ralph Addis said that WA is home to diverse wildlife and that the restoration of shellfish reefs will help boost the health of the estuary. “Lotterywest is honoured to support the Swan-Canning Estuary reef restoration project, which is part of Australia’s largest marine restoration initiative,” said Mr Addis.

Dr Tony Worby, Director of the Minderoo Foundation Flourishing Oceans initiative said that the Swan and Canning rivers have incredible cultural and recreational significance and play a big part in the lives of many Western Australians. “By restoring these reefs, this project will help to ensure the health of this critically important ecosystem for future generations,” said Dr Worby.

The Swan-Canning Estuary is one of 13 sites identified for shellfish reef restoration under Reef Builder, a partnership between the Australian Government and TNC to restore these critically important ecosystems and support the economic recovery of coastal communities.  

“The Australian Government is pleased to continue to work closely with The Nature Conservancy to restore native shellfish reefs across the country lost decades ago through historical over-fishing and pollution,” said Minister for the Environment and Water, Hon Tanya Plibersek MP. 

“Restoring Australia’s shellfish reefs will contribute to improving the health and resilience of our oceans and marine ecosystems. The restored reef at Swan-Canning Estuary will create a home for all types of marine life, protect local coastlines, improve coastal water quality, boost local tourism and fish stocks, and create jobs.”

The Swan-Canning reef restoration project is also part of TNC’s broader national shellfish reef restoration program that aims to rebuild 60 shellfish reef ecosystems across Australia.

If you would like to know more about our reef restoration work in the Swan-Canning , please visit: nature.org.au/swan-canning

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.