Port Phillip Bay Barge deploying limestones © Ben Cleveland


Victoria’s biggest ever reef restoration project hits the water

Media Contacts

  • Tony Jupp
    Associate Director of Communications
    The Nature Conservancy Australia
    Email: tjupp@tnc.org

Key Points

  • Shellfish reef reconstruction in Port Phillip Bay gets underway in earnest.
  • Proven techniques will improve water quality and fish stocks in the Bay over time.

After extensive field trials, work commenced today on creating Victoria’s biggest ever reef reconstruction project.  Working with partners – Fisheries Victoria and the Albert Park Yachting & Angling Club (APYAC) – The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is deploying 360 tonnes of limestone at Margaret’s Reef, 10 minutes off St Kilda in Hobson’s Bay, and at Wilsons Spit near Geelong.

Covering 600min total across both reefs, the limestone will provide the foundation for 300,000 native Angasi oyster hatchlings that divers will spread evenly over the limestone next week.

Using techniques tried and proven in the US, The Nature Conservancy’s long-term goal is to restore new reefs that will become self-sustaining, healthy shellfish reef habitat throughout the bay. “Oysters are highly effective at filtering water – up to five litres per oyster per hour. This makes them excellent at improving water quality”, explains Dr Chris Gillies, Marine Manager at TNC Australia. “Over time, they also create a complex habitat for other shellfish and marine creatures which increases biodiversity, creates jobs, protects coastlines from storm surges and boosts fish stocks for recreational fishers.”

Shellfish reefs were once the dominant habitat over up to 50% of the seafloor of Port Phillip Bay but were wiped out by the 1980s due to over-exploitation. Our vision is to restore around 500 hectares of these lost reefs (equivalent to 700 soccer pitches) around the State, and we hope to continue to work with the Victorian Government to achieve this.

“Long serving club members noticed a decline in the bay’s shellfish reefs and their catches from where they once occurred, and they wanted to do something about it. So, we’re delighted to be part of this project with TNC and Fisheries Victoria”, said Phillip Langdon, President, Albert Park Yachting & Angling Club.

“We’re really excited to kick off Stage 2 of our project to restore these lost shellfish reefs for people and nature”, said Simon Branigan from TNC Australia, who is deeply involved in managing the project – literally.  “Getting to dive soon in 10 metres of water to settle the young oysters on the limestone rubble will be a great thrill for all of us involved.”

Test Plot
Margaret's Reef test plot © Simon Branigan

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.