Shellfish Restoration Set to Double!

VRFish are thrilled to be able to let members and supporters know that the shellfish reef restoration project in Port Phillip Bay, led by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), is set to double in size by the end of 2020.  New funding has been secured by TNC through support from the Victorian Government’s Target One Million program and two private foundations, to extend the footprint of reefs from 2.5 hectares to at least 5 hectares in the existing locations and in two new locations (see Map).  

Shellfish reefs are nursery habitats and overtime will boost fish numbers, clean water and enhance marine biodiversity. VRFish are proud partners in the project and will continue support initiatives like this, that improve habitat for fish and engage recreational fishers in the process. VRFish would like to also acknowledge the hard yards of Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club who are foundation partners in the project and continue to raise funds and awareness about these shellfish reefs.

Map of the shellfish reef restoration sites in Port Phillip with a red fish symbol highlighting new sites for 2020 reef build.

Reef Locations & Fishing 

The Victorian Fisheries Authority recently released the coordinates of the shellfish sites which can be found here  We ask all recreational fishers to please do not anchor in or ideally nearby to reefs, rather drift fish over the reefs. The reefs were only built in 2017 and 2018 so the reef structure and the oysters and mussels living there are still forming a natural shellfish reef.  Monitoring has also shown that many juvenile fish species are already inhabiting the reefs, providing an important nursery habitat in areas that are largely featureless seascapes and where these reefs used to exist (see picture of Margaret’s Reef). 

Picture of Margaret’s Reef in Hobsons Bay with juvenile pinkie snapper.

2020 Reef Building Plans

The plans for later in the year are to extend the footprint of reefs at Wilson Spit off Clifton Springs Boat Ramp and Margaret’s Reef near St Kilda.  The reefs will be built using a large barge carrying limestone rubble and recycled shells, with a Longreach excavator deploying these materials to the seabed to make a reef base.  The reef bases will be anywhere from 150 to 300 min size and are designed and placed to maximise the habitat value for fish and other species.  Whilst this construction is happening, oysters will be grown in the Victorian Shellfish Reef Hatchery, then sprinkled on top of the new reef bases using what TNC calls the ‘Bivalve blaster’, which is like a reverse vacuum cleaner. The reefs will also be seeded with mussels supplied by an Aquaculture Farmer. It’s the oyster and mussels that are the shellfish reef forming species as they cement together and grow on top of each other over time. 

The two new sites are 9ft Bank in Geelong Arm and Dromana.  9ft Bank is an old, degraded shellfish reef and the closest TNC has found to a surviving shellfish reef in Victoria.  The Dromana site is also an old shellfish reef but largely a featureless sand shelly bottom, with large buffers in place to protect the existing seagrass areas. Both these sites are still subject Marine and Coastal Act Permits before works can occur.

If you would like to find out anymore about the project and or keen to help out, you can visit TNC’s website or contact Simon Branigan at [email protected].

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