lower estuary
Sunset at Noosa lower estuary © Craig Bohm / TNC

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The Nature Conservancy Australia announces $1.2m towards oyster bed restoration in Noosa

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Australia announced today an extra $1.2 million for the restoration of shellfish ecosystems in the Noosa River estuary. This contribution, funded from the $20 million TNC Australia-Australian Government Reef Builder Project, complements generous contributions by the Thomas Foundation and the Australian Marine Conservation Society ($1.2million) and Noosa Shire Council ($1.2 million), bringing the total allocation to restore shellfish reefs in Noosa to $3.6 million.

Oyster beds are natural structures that provide food-rich habitat for a diversity of fish species. Estuarine fishes use the beds for resting, hiding from predators, spawning and feeding on planktonic prey and smaller fishes in and around the beds.

“By restoring oyster-dominated ecosystems in the Noosa River estuary, the project will improve habitat for fish and marine life, help clean the water, and help to keep Noosa’s much-loved estuary clean and clear for locals and visitors to enjoy,” said Ms Alison Rowe, TNC Australia’s Managing Director.

Shellfish ecosystems were once common in the Noosa River estuary. In the late 1800s, extensive harvesting, along with changes in catchment land use practices and expanding urban development, caused their long-term decline.

“By matching the Noosa Shire Council and philanthropic contributions with Australian Government’s Reef Builder funds, the project should now be able to double the planned oyster restoration area in the Noosa River estuary, supporting the local economy and engagement with community and school groups,” Federal Member for Wide Bay and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Llew O'Brien said.

Noosa Shire Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie welcomed the additional funding from the federal government for the science-backed project, involving three levels of government and TNC Australia.

“The Noosa River is among 13 restoration sites around the country where reefs are being used to improve the abundance of marine life and water quality, now and for future generations,” he said.

“It’s fantastic to see this forward-thinking Federal, State and Local Government partnership recognising the long-term economic benefit for communities that can flow from creating healthy, natural marine environments.”

This summer the project plans to establish oyster beds along selected shoreline fringes of Tewantin, Goat Island and Noosa Sound. Part of the restoration method uses recycled oyster shells to add to the rocky base and some shells will be seeded with oyster larvae to fast-track ecosystem development. To support this method, TNC Australia has established a local shell recycling program called Shuck Don’t Chuck. Oyster shells are collected from local seafood wholesalers and retailers, sun dried and eventually added to the rocky base of the oyster bed.

Noosa is one of thirteen sites identified for reef restoration under Reef Builder, a 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. It is part of TNC Australia’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. TNC Australia and its local, state and national government and non-government partners are restoring shellfish reefs in Noosa, Queensland, Port Phillip Bay (Victoria), Adelaide (South Australia), The Swan River and Peel and Harvey Inlet (Western Australia), with new projects in the planning pipeline for New South Wales and Tasmania. 

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.