Local researchers and natural resource managers are working with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Recfishwest, The University of Western Australia and South Coast Natural Resource Management (South Coast NRM) to restore native oyster reefs in Oyster Harbour that were destroyed by overfishing more than 100 years ago.
Once abundant enough to give Oyster Harbour its name, oyster reefs throughout their Australian southern coastal range have failed to recover due to a lack of suitable habitat, changes in water quality and disease.
The long-term reef restoration project in Albany will provide habitat for juvenile native oysters to settle, grow and live, and eventually grow more reef. The project will also engage community, possibly through monitoring and education about the habitat and benefits to local harbour health.
“As this exciting project progresses beyond the pilot phase we will encourage opportunities for local community and stakeholder involvement,” Dylan Gleave, Coastal, Marine and Water Program Leader, South Coast Natural Resource Management.
Native flat oysters have a very important role to play for healthy waterways and marine environments. Dr Boze Hancock, a Marine Restoration Scientist at TNC explains; “Oysters are nature’s water filter. A single oyster can filter water at a rate of up to 4 or 5 litres an hour. That’s enough to fill a bathtub in a day”.
Healthy shellfish reefs also provide high quality habitat for fish, which is an important feature of the Oyster Harbour reef restoration project. Small crustaceans and worms provide food for growing fish that use Oyster Harbour as a nursery. The oyster reef also provides juvenile fish with a place to hide from predators.
In early May, as part of the pilot project rocky rubble will be placed on the seafloor of 3 sites in Oyster Harbour, to provide the habitat native oysters need to settle and live. With the help of local contractors, divers and a barge, the project team will deploy the rubble during a week in early May to make the most of Autumn weather conditions.
“Creating a 20cm-high rubble reef will provide habitat for the juvenile oysters produced by the hatchery to settle and hopefully grow,” said Bryn Warnock, UWA Research Officer, who is happy to talk with anyone interested in the project.
“We will have divers in the water, so you see us on the barge, please give us a wave, but keep well clear, and catch us back in port to chat,” said Mr Warnock.
This project is delivered by University of Western Australia and South Coast NRM in partnership with funding from The Nature Conservancy and Recfishwest.
For further information or to get involved with the project Bringing oysters back to Oyster Harbour contact: