Largest community-driven shellfish reef restoration in Australia gets started

Pictured: Healthy Land and Water CEO Julie McLellan, OzFish Unlimited CEO Craig Copeland, Ozfish Project Officer Robbie Porter and Healthy Land and Water Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator Susie Chapman. 


Australian fishing conservation charity OzFish Unlimited launched the largest community-driven shellfish reef restoration project in Australia today at the Port of Brisbane Shellfish Recycling Centre.

The launch kicks off 19.4 hectares of shellfish reef restoration in Queensland’s Moreton Bay and commences what is being referred to as a Shellfish Revolution across the country.

Over the next six years, volunteers will build more than 50,000 Robust Oyster Baskets (ROBs) and deploy them along a site donated for restoration by the Port of Brisbane.

The ROBs are made by hand by recreational fishers and filled with recycled oyster shells which have been collected and sterilised. The ROBs are used as base structures for baby oysters to grow on.

This innovative restoration technique has been developed in Queensland by volunteers and school students and the project has been modeled off the success of the One Billion Oyster project in New York Harbour.

Craig Copeland, CEO of OzFish Unlimited, describes the project as a gamechanger for shellfish reef restoration in Australia.

“We’ve lost more shellfish reefs across Australia than coral reefs and we not only need people to know about it – we need the community to help in its restoration,” Mr Copeland said.

“OzFish and our selfless volunteer recreational anglers have been working for more than four years, collecting the shells, and designing the ROBS and shell washing machinery.

Shellfish reefs made up of oysters and mussels offer a whole suite of ecosystem services. Each restored hectare of native oyster reef can filter 2.7 billion litres of seawater removing 225kg of nitrogen and phosphate, produce an additional 2.5 tonnes of harvestable fish every year and divert tonnes of used shell from landfill.

Healthy Land and Water CEO Julie McLellan at the project launch on 15 October 2021.

This project is supported by peak environmental group for South East Queensland, Healthy Land and Water through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, and Queensland’s Community Fishing Grants Program.

CEO for Healthy Land and Water, Julie McLellan says the project is an important part of the broader body of work underway to restore this habitat in connectivity with other marine habitats in the internationally recognised Moreton Bay Ramsar Wetland.

“This project is a natural follow on from the initial community-driven trial we established in Pumicestone that is now delivering dividends for fish productivity, including 16 times more harvestable fish abundance and four times more fish diversity at the reef site,” says Ms McLellan, who says this is conclusive proof that targeted work is enhancing the fish productivity rather than just acting as an attractant.

“Further, it builds resilience of the whole marine ecosystem. It also engages recreational fishers in fish habitat restoration.”

Port of Brisbane Chief Development Officer, David Keir, congratulated the OzFish team and said the Port of Brisbane had been very proud to play a part in the project.

“This work that OzFish is leading is not just innovative, it’s also going to play a great role in improving the health of the Bay,” said Mr Keir.

“Port of Brisbane shares OzFish’s vision of improving the health of the marine environment which is why we’re always looking for opportunities to work with like-minded partners to develop innovative solutions that will benefit the broader community.

“We’ve been delighted to support the OzFish project for over three years now and look forward to working with them into the future.”


This project is supported by Healthy Land and Water through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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