Port Phillip Bay shellfish reef restoration project wins major state sustainability awards
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Australia’s shellfish reef restoration project in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, won the Industry Leader of Healthy Environment category at the Victoria Premier's Sustainability Award last night. The award celebrates initiatives that conserve and protect ecosystems and species. The Port Phillip Bay reef restoration project also won the Premier’s Recognition Award.
Simon Branigan, TNC Australia’s Oceans East Coast Operations Manager, says it is an honour to win not only one, but two awards on the night.
“It’s a great recognition of TNC Australia’s Port Phillip Bay shellfish reef restoration project and the positive impact the reef is already having for people and nature in the Bay,” Mr Branigan said.
“These awards are an acknowledgment of the terrific outcomes we can achieve through collaborative partnerships. These partnerships make a difference for nature and people and inspire us to innovate and be ambitious.”
“We are thankful to the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation who nominated TNC’s project for the award and have been such a great partner on this project.”
Port Phillip Bay was once home to extensive oyster and mussel reefs which supported a huge range of sea life including fish, crabs, sea squirts, snails and sponges. Historical over-harvesting, pollution and introduced diseases and pest have decimated these vital reef habitats.
In 2015, TNC Australia partnered with the Victorian Government, The Thomas Foundation and the Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club to rebuild Port Phillip Bay’s lost shellfish reefs. Since then, with continued support from the local community, including recreational fishers and commercial shellfish growers as well as corporate partners, TNC Australia has rebuilt shellfish reefs across four locations in the Bay. The recent expansion, financed under the Australian Government’s Reef Builder initiative, will almost double the size of the existing reef.
“Port Phillip Bay was the very first shellfish reef restoration project TNC initiated in Australia six years ago, so it is very exciting to see this project recognised tonight,” Mr Branigan said.
To rebuild reefs, first TNC creates a new reef base - including recycled shell sourced from seafood wholesalers and hospitality venues – which are deployed to build the reef bases.
Once the new reef bases are in place, divers seed the reef base with hatchery-grown Australian Flat Oysters, as well as Blue Mussels grown in Port Phillip Bay. These reefs become rich ecosystems that support fish and other marine species by providing shelter and acting as a ‘nursery’ for many of these species, as well as a food source.
“Life has quickly returned in Port Phillip Bay. Through ongoing monitoring, we have observed fish including Snapper, Leatherjackets and Southern Hulafish on the restored reefs. They’ve also attracted other invertebrates like the Magnificent biscuit stars and nudibranchs, and we have even seen Australian Fur-Seals and Burrunan Dolphins frequenting the reefs,” Mr Branigan says.
“As time passes and our reefs continue to grow, we will see more biodiversity come back to the waters of Port Phillip Bay. We’ll see other benefits for the environment and community too, such as the oysters and mussels capturing nutrients to filter the water.”
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.