The Reef Builder Program

  • Dr Chris Gillies from the Nature Conservancy leads the Reef Builder Program, which has just received $20m in Government funding to begin restoration of shellfish reefs around southern Australia.
  • Since the 1800’s Australia has lost an estimated 99% of flat oyster reefs and 90% of rock oyster reefs to the combined impacts of excessive harvesting. This represents a massive loss of hard structure from bays and estuaries, with staggering loss of fish habitat.
  • Individual oysters can filter up to 150 litres of water per day each, removing sediments and impurities. The loss of billions of oysters is likely to have contributed to a reduction in water quality. When healthy oyster reefs are present it’s not uncommon for seagrass beds to also be in good health due to better water clarity.
  • Reef builders will recreate 13 oyster reefs in key locations around southern Australia, seed them with oyster spats and in so doing will rekindle the natural recruitment of oysters. The biggest impediment is a lack of hard structure, which must now be artificially recreated.
  • Chris’ team works alongside OzFish Unlimited, angling peak bodies and all levels of government to restore reefs. The project is expected to improve water quality, increase fish productivity and support tourism, commercial fishing and other economic activities.  

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