The Nature Conservancy is working with the Victorian Government to restore Port Phillip Bay’s shellfish reefs.
The project was initiated by Fisheries Victoria and the Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club, who noticed the loss of productive snapper habitat in and around Hobson Bay through club fishing records.
As part of the reef restoration project, native flat oysters raised at the Department of Environment and Primary Industries’ Queenscliff hatchery will be used to re-establish reefs in the Port Phillip Bay area. The first three reefs to be restored are at Geelong, Hobsons Bay and Chelsea.
The pilot project is the first stage of the Conservancy's Great Southern Seascapes program, designed to restore and improve marine habitats in southern Australia, where most of the reefs have been lost.
“Working with a wide range of government departments, Australian scientists, fishing clubs and conservation groups, our program will focus on habitat restoration, both in the water and on the coast, and encourage local people to get involved through different volunteer activities,” says Dr. James Fitzsimons, the Conservancy's director of conservation in Australia.
The restoration of shellfish reefs should boost fish numbers, create more clean water and increase recreational fishing opportunities.
The project will be jointly funded with $120,000 from the Victorian Government's Recreational Fishing Initiative, and $150,000 from The Nature Conservancy
In a recent report, Shellfish Reefs at Risk, the Conservancy revealed that shellfish reefs are the most threatened marine habitat on earth. Globally, 85% of oyster reefs have been completely lost and there are signs that reefs are ’functionally extinct’ in many areas, particularly in Australia.