New shellfish reefs to be planted in Victorian bay
Dredging and bottom trawling of Port Phillip Bay in Victoria have destroyed most of the natural shellfish reefs in the 230 years since European settlement of Australia.
This new plan reported in the Age newspaper last week will help to restore shellfish reefs in the bay with the aim of increasing habitat for flathead, snapper and other commercially and recreationally valuable fish.
Shellfish reefs will be re-created on the bottom of Port Phillip Bay in a historic project that aims to improve marine habitats in Victoria’s largest bay.
Researchers say that if the reefs can be successfully established as expected, they would provide healthy habitats for shellfish like mussels and oysters. They would also provide habitat, shelter and food options for fish such as snapper, flathead, rockling and many other fish that live in the bay. They would also help improve water quality.
Shells from mussels, scallops and oysters that have been discarded by the seafood industry and restaurants could be sought as part of the project. They would eventually be placed in the bay at one of three locations, in order to form a base for the early stage of the shellfish reefs. Some artificial material could also be used.
But the project requires more than old shells. Millions of baby oysters and mussels, which will be bred at the Victorian Shellfish Hatchery at Queenscliff, will be used to colonise the reefs in the $270,000 pilot project. The baby oysters and mussels will attach themselves to shells at the hatchery, before they are placed in the water on top of the old shells.
The project, to commence this year, is expected to be formally announced on Saturday by Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh, the minister responsible for fisheries. It will be funded jointly, with $120,000 from the state’s Recreational Fishing Initiative, and $150,000 from The Nature Conservancy, an international organisation that undertakes conservation works around the world.
A patchwork of reefs will be restored at three locations, near Geelong, Chelsea and St Kilda, in about eight to 12 metres of water.