Historic bid to restore Pumicestone shellfish habitat launches at Bribie Island

14 December 2017

A project to restore the once magnificent shellfish beds of the Pumicestone Passage was launched at Bribie Island on Tuesday utilising technology never used before in Australia.

Shellfish have been synonymous with indigenous culture and Moreton Bay for thousands of years, but shellfish communities are now functionally extinct in the Pumicestone Passage due to over-harvesting and disease.

On Tuesday, the second stage of The Pumicestone Shellfish Habitat Restoration Project was officially launched with the aim of enhancing marine biodiversity and fish stocks and ultimately improving water quality in the Moreton Bay region.

Three different types of artificial shellfish reefs were installed within a one-hectare location off Kakadu Beach, including a biodegradable potato starch matrix known as BESE-Elements that was developed in the Netherlands and has never been used before in Australia.  

Steel cages filled with shells and a patch reef construction used to simulate natural reef structure were also installed.

The project is a community-led collaboration more than 20 year in the making and involves Traditional Owners, all levels of government, community groups, industry and water utilities.

To honour their inextricable link to Moreton Bay and shellfish communities, relatives of Traditional Owners helped assemble the BESE-Elements under the guidance of the Dutch developers who made the journey to Australia for the launch.

Project leaders are asking fishers to be custodians of the project and to support the restoration effort by not anchoring in the area as anchors could damage potato starch matrix installations and severely hamper the project.

A special illuminated yellow marker buoy has been installed to indicate to water users where the reef structures are located beneath the water.

The project will be monitored by the University of the Sunshine Coast marine science team for three years and it is hoped a successful trial will encourage similar restoration work to be replicated elsewhere in the Moreton Bay Marine Park.

A full list of project partners includes Joondooburri Trust, Kabi Kabi First Nation, Pumicestone Passage Fish Restocking Association, Sunfish, Digsfish Services Pty Ltd, Carlo Sain, University of the Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay Regional Council, Unitywater, Boating, Camping and Fishing (BCF), the Australian Government and the National Landcare Program, the Queensland Government, the Community Benefit Fund, Regional Landcare Facilitator Program, Bureau Waardenburg, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen and OzFish.