Standard Presentation (15 mins) Australian Marine Sciences Association 2022

Restoring shellfish reefs in NSW: an overview (#41)

Victoria J Cole 1 , David Harasti 1 , Kylie Russell 1 , Kirk Dahle 2 , Francisco Martinez Baena 2 , Simon Reeves 3
  1. NSW Department of Primary Industries Fisheries, Taylors Beach, NSW, Australia
  2. Australia Program, The Nature Conservancy, Ultimo, NSW, Australia
  3. Australia Program, The Nature Conservancy, Carlton, VIC, Australia

Oyster reef restoration in NSW is expanding. The first large scale Sydney rock oyster reef restoration project began on the NSW mid-north coast in 2020, and new projects are underway on the central and south coasts, with construction scheduled for 2022 and 2023.  In addition to restoring Saccostrea glomerata reefs, restoration of Ostrea angasi reefs will also commence in the new projects. We have developed a monitoring program that requires seasonal sampling of shellfish, fish, and invertebrates, from replicated reference sites (remnant oyster reefs), control sites (bare sediment), and the restoration site(s). After 2 years, in Port Stephens, the ecological assemblages at the restoration sites are beginning to converge with natural reefs. Furthermore, they are currently supporting 55 million oyster recruits, up to 34 species of fishes, 8 million invertebrates, and filtering 7.5 million L/h. The success of restoration of future projects cannot be predicted based on the results from Port Stephens alone, due to annual variability in oyster settlement, the quality of nearby remnant oyster reefs, and the overall health of the estuaries. Current pre-construction sampling at these estuaries are, however, providing essential baseline data. In addition to measuring the progress of restoration, these large-scale restoration works are also providing manipulative experiments to understand ecological questions and investigate new methods.