Dive around Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Restoring the reefs of Kangaroo Island © Jarrod Boord/Streamline Media


Three hectares of newly restored native shellfish reefs are boosting the health and biodiversity of waters around Kangaroo Island

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The reef restoration project in the eastern cove of Nepean Bay, led by The Nature Conservancy Australia (TNC), has now reached its final stage, with the seeding of the reef’s rock foundation with three million locally sourced juvenile Australian Flat Oysters.

“This is a very exciting milestone for the reef restoration project and for Kangaroo Island’s iconic marine environment,” TNC’s Oceans Manager for South Australia, Anita Nedosyko, said. “After the construction of the reef patches, made from local limestone, the seeding of the patches with juvenile Australian Flat Oysters means that the reefs are now ready to start filtering water and attracting marine life. We are so grateful to the Kangaroo Island community for their support in helping this reef restoration project come to life.”

Kangaroo Island is one of 13 locations in Australia selected for shellfish reef restoration under the Reef Builder Program, with other reef restoration projects in South Australia under this program already completed at Glenelg and O’Sullivan Beach in 2021.

The Reef Builder Program, a partnership between TNC and the Australian Government, is designed to help bring shellfish reef ecosystems back from the brink of extinction and to support the local community’s economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic and bushfires. Planning for the Kangaroo Island project commenced in 2021.

“Kangaroo Island has always been a key location to restore shellfish reefs for TNC, because historic fishing records show a lot of the sheltered bays had reefs. We have heard this from the local community as well. Sadly, over time, these reefs were lost from overfishing. That’s why we are so excited to bring this precious ecosystem back from the brink of extinction in American River,” Ms Nedosyko said.

“Oysters are powerful at filtering water and over the next few years the reef will mature and provide habitat for a range of key fish species including snapper, lobster, whiting, leatherjackets, cuttlefish, and squid. Once matured, these shellfish reefs will provide new fishing and diving locations for the Kangaroo Island community. We are also really grateful for the great partnership we have with The Kangaroo Island Shellfish aquaculture farm, run by Ken and Amanda Rowe at American River, who assisted TNC in growing Australian Flat Oysters and developed a tourism hub around the importance of the species for the restoration and the local economy,” Ms Nedosyko said.

The next stage of the project will involve monitoring the reefs and their marine life, which will help guide future reef restoration projects.

In addition to funding support from the Reef Builder program, the Kangaroo Island project has also received generous philanthropic support from The Terra Artemis Foundation, the Daisy and Edward Mallett Foundation as well as a private philanthropic grant.

Across South Australia, TNC is working with the Australian Government, the South Australian Department for Environment and Water and local agencies to help bring lost shellfish reefs back along the state's coastline.

Read more about our reef restoration work at Nepean Cove on Kangaroo Island.

View images and footage of this project.

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.