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Port Phillip partnership to double shellfish reefs

by Jordy Jeffrey-Bailey 14 Jun 2020 09:42 UTC
Shellfish reefs © Victorian Fisheries Authority

The Andrews Labor Government and The Nature Conservancy will continue their partnership approach to revitalising shellfish reefs in Port Phillip Bay by investing $1.1 million to build three hectares of new native oyster reef.

Minister for Fishing and Boating Jaala Pulford said the Labor Government's $500,000 contribution to further restore lost shellfish reefs in the bay helps deliver on a key fish habitat commitment in its Target One Million plan to get more people fishing, more often.

Shellfish reefs boost fish numbers, clean water and enhance marine biodiversity, which is good news for the environment and recreational fishers who wet a line in Victoria's biggest recreational fishery, Port Phillip Bay. The bay is home to a vibrant snapper, whiting, calamari and flathead fishery.

The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) $600,000 investment into the project comes courtesy of $300,000 from the Ross Trust for a new reef off of the Mornington Peninsula and $300,000 from the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation for a reef at 9ft Bank, off Geelong.

The partnership will more than double the area of restored oyster reef in the bay from 2.5 to 5.5 hectares by installing the equivalent of twelve 250m2 shellfish reefs with five million oysters across three sites, including continued restoration of reefs near St Kilda and Geelong.

A new restoration technique not attempted before in Australia will be trialled at 9ft Bank, which is a degraded shellfish reef and the closest TNC has found to a surviving reef in Victoria.

The technique involves deploying at least 500m2 of recycled shells from restaurants and the seafood industry to provide new substrate on the seafloor for remnant oysters in the area to colonise.

This will reduce organic waste to landfill by turning rubbish into new reefs. The project will also utilise 50 citizen scientists to help monitor the new reefs, assist with hatchery preparations and deliver community education to improve awareness.

The GPS locations of the previously completed shellfish reefs are online at www.vfa.vic.gov.au/shellfishreefs.

Minister for Fishing and Boating Jaala Pulford said:

"We're partnering with the Nature Conservancy to continue our work to improve the water quality and fish habitat in Port Phillip Bay."

"The Australian first restoration technique will not only reduce organic waste to landfill but also encourage more people to get fishing in our fantastic waters."

Member for Geelong Christine Couzens said:

"I am excited to see this new technique for 9ft Bank increase local shellfish numbers and revitalise our lost shellfish reefs."

Member for Nepean Chris Brayne said:

"The prospect of a new reef off side of the bay is incredibly exciting and a win for local fishers and the environment."

Shellfish Reefs revitalization

The first series of the Port Phillip Bay shellfish reefs restoration project begun in March 2017 and was completed in November 2018. The project is a partnership between Victorian Government and the The Nature Conservancy, which aims to revitalise shellfish reefs in Port Phillip.

The project has utilised limestone rubble and recycled shell from Victoria's restaurant industry to construct the reefs near Geelong and St Kilda, which were selected due to their suitability as they were originally home to shellfish reefs at the time of colonisation.

Shellfish reefs boost fish numbers, clean water and enhance marine biodiversity, which is good news for the environment and recreational fishers who frequent Port Phillip. The bay is home to vibrant snapper, whiting, calamari and flathead fisheries, all of which benefit from the reefs.

Each year, one hectare of oyster reef;

  • Filters 2.7 billion litres of sea water
  • Removes 275kg of Nitrogen and Phosphate
  • Produces 375kg of fish
  • Is home to over 100 marine species
  • Recycles 7000m2 of shell
Important: Please do not anchor in the reefs, as this destroys the growing reef structure.

Geelong / Wilson Spit

Site Description Latitude Longitude
Wilson Spit 1 Centre - 279.5m2 Limestone Reef 38° 7.131'S 144° 30.403'E
Wilson Spit 2 Centre - 355.6m2 Limestone Reef 38° 07.169'S 144° 30.389'E
Wilson Spit 3 Centre – 718.2m2 Limestone Reef 38° 07.180'S 144° 30.218'E
Wilson Spit 4 Centre – 995.4m2 Limestone Reef 38° 07.201'S 144° 30.225'E

St Kilda / Margaret's Reef

Site Description Latitude Longitude
Margaret’s Reef 1 Centre – 532.5m2 Limestone Reef 37° 53.903'S 144° 56.777'E
Margaret’s Reef 2 Centre - 488.8m2 Limestone Reef 37° 53.937'S 144° 56.746'E

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