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Sunset on water with boat
O'sullivans Beach barge Construction barge at O'sullivans Beach, Onkaparinga - shellfish reef © Tania Sincock

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Construction of 5 ha shellfish reef off O’Sullivan Beach reaches completion

The Nature Conservancy Australia (TNC) is excited to complete the construction of a new 5ha shellfish reef off O’Sullivan Beach to restore a native ecosystem. With an area the equivalent of two Adelaide Ovals, the new reef will provide a boost for the local marine environment as well as new jobs, tourism and recreational opportunities.

The O’Sullivan shellfish reef restoration project was mainly funded under the Australian Government’s Reef Builder initiative. Reef Builder is a $20 million partnership between the Australian Government and The Nature Conservancy Australia to bring shellfish reefs back from the brink of extinction. Thirteen sites have been identified nationally for reef restoration while providing economic boosts for communities impacted by bushfires and COVID-19 restrictions. The O’Sullivan shellfish reef restoration project also received generous funding from City of Onkaparinga.

“We have laid reef foundation, which is made from locally-sourced limestone,” TNC Oceans Project Coordinator Tania Sincock said. “This reef base will shortly be seeded with juvenile, hatchery-raised Australian Flat Oysters, which have been settled onto recycled oyster shells, to create a flourishing marine habitat. Over the next few years, these juvenile oysters will grow and recreate a living shellfish reef, providing a home for many marine species.”

Shellfish reefs are part of South Australia’s natural heritage, providing homes, feeding and nursery grounds to hundreds of marine species.

Federal Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said shellfish reefs once thrived around Australia’s coasts but were victim to overharvesting and dredging in the late 1800s.

“Our $20 million Reef Builder Program through The Nature Conservancy is helping to reverse some of that damage, with each reef capable of boosting fish stocks by thousands of kilograms each year,” Minister Ley said.

The construction of the O’Sullivan Beach reef follows the expansion of an existing reef at Glenelg from 2 ha to 5 ha in October 2021, also financed under Reef Builder. This expansion was built in partnership with the South Australian Department for Environment and Water.

Together with the existing Windara reef near Ardrossan, which was completed in 2019, the O’Sullivan Beach reef is the third shellfish habitat restored by The Nature Conservancy in South Australia.

“South Australia is leading the way in shellfish reef restoration, and it's very exciting to see the local biodiversity and community benefits resulting from this work,” said Ms Sincock.

City of Onkaparinga Mayor Erin Thompson said it was a thrill to see work on the new reef coming to completion.

“Our community lives in and around the water and they’ve been behind this project since its inception,” Mayor Thompson said.

“This project has it all, from providing recreation and economic benefits to our City, through to helping to revive a critically endangered ecosystem.

My sincere thanks to TNC and the state and federal governments for partnering with us to make it happen.”

All projects under Reef Builder are part of TNC Australia's National Reef Building Project that aims to rebuild 60 reefs alongside communities who need them most. If achieved, it will make Australia the world’s first nation to recover a critically endangered marine ecosystem. 

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.