Australia's Shellfish Reefs Return from the Brink of Extinction

Australia’s Shellfish Reefs Return from the Brink of Extinction

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The region’s coral reefs are well known and talked about, but did you know that Australia’s shellfish reefs are as important to the ecosystem? And while the Great Barrier Reef is still struggling to survive, a miraculous shellfish reef recovery has taken place in the Port Phillip Bay area, just off Melbourne’s coastline.

After being decreased by over 90%, Australia’s shellfish reefs make an awesome return from the brink of extinction! Read all about the amazing restoration efforts that have made this return possible!




Port Phillip Bay is nearly surrounded by the city of Melbourne and its various suburbs. This marine area has had to withstand decades of pollution and overfishing. Naturally, the over-harvesting of the bay’s oysters was just too much to handle for the once enormous shellfish reefs.

Australia's shellfish reefs
Image by Beckmc – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Related Article: 4ocean – Plastic Cleaners of the Seven Seas





Restoring Australia’s shellfish reefs

Until a group of brilliant scientists decided to do something about that. A few years ago, the team, led by The Nature Conservancy, started to restore Australia’s shellfish reefs. They accomplished this by implementing a method that is both simple and awesome:

See the reef restoration method in action!

  1. Identifying suitable sites for reefs in the ocean

    This is done with the help of scientific field studies, local fisheries and divers, as well as historical data and knowledge.

  2. Creating a reef base

    This is accomplished by collecting thousands of empty oyster shells from local and regional restaurants. The shells end up both in oyster hatcheries and on the sea floor, where, together with tons of broken lime stone, they provide elevation and hard surfaces that attracts marine life.

  3. Scattering of the reef base with millions of baby oysters

    The young oysters produced in the hatcheries are dropped onto the reef base. Here, they grow and attach themselves to each other and the existing reef base. This creates a living reef which further attracts a diversity of fish and aquatic life.

This method has led to a large-scale restoration of shellfish reef areas. Additionally, the growing oyster populations contribute to an increased water quality.

The amazing filtration power of oysters

Just how powerful the water filtration ability of oysters can be, is shown in the above video. One oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day! The infographic shown below outlines other major advantages of having a healthy shellfish reef.

Shellfish reef stats
Image by TNC

Related article: Acoustic Enrichment – The Art of Bringing Coral Reefs Back to Life


A win-win situation for both animals and humans

All in all, everyone, above and below the surface of the ocean, gains from this incredible act of ecosystem restoration. All across Australia, both shellfish and coral reefs are now being restored. The results are really promising and every year, the reef areas are becoming bigger and stronger. This, in turn, has yielded positive results for the local sustainable fisheries and tourism. Furthermore, many new jobs have been created in these industries and more are coming!

This project is the perfect example of a fully circular economy. The environment gets a much needed boost, the surrounding industries are financially revitalized and waste is used and recycled 100%. The produced waste actually creates new life in the process! Additionally, water resources are made cleaner and safer to drink.

It is but natural that the scientists behind this glorious idea try to globalize this method! All Good Newz congratulates the brains behind this fantastic idea and hopes for many more projects like this one. The oceans and humanity thank you!

Feature image by Charlotte Coneybeer on Unsplash

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