pumicestone passage shellfish reef

Restoring important shellfish reefs

Since European settlement, 95% of shellfish reefs have been lost in Pumicestone Passage. Now recreational fishers, community organisations and OzFish Pumicestone Chapter are working together to restore these important shellfish reefs.

The first trial shellfish reef was placed into Pumicestone Passage on December 12, 2017. The project is comparing the performance of patch reefs made from recycled oyster shells and live oysters and two string reef designs, one from steel cages filled with recycled oyster shells, and one from biodegradable potato starch matrix (BESE-Elements) developed in the Netherlands and now used for the first time in Australia.

Experimental reefs project

The experimental reefs can be damaged by anchors, so local fishers are encouraged to show their support by not anchoring in the area around a yellow Special Mark Buoy.

The project is being monitored by the University of the Sunshine Coast marine science team. It is hoped that a successful trial will then be scaled up and the shellfish reefs restored throughout Moreton Bay Marine Park.

Shell Recycling Centre – Ningi Transfer Station

Restaurants, wholesalers and the general public play a crucial role in shellfish restoration by donating used oysters and mussel shells to support the project. Every oyster shell that is recycled and placed back into a suitable reef restoration site will provide a home for up to 10 baby oysters.

An oyster shell recycling centre has been established at Ningi Transfer Station. The local community can drop off their shells at participating restaurants or directly into buckets at the Oyster Shell Recycling centre – 1532 Bribie Island Rd. The recycling station treats the used shells for disease and pests before being reused to rebuild shellfish reefs on the passage.

Participating local restaurants include Sandstone Point Hotel, Savige’s Seafood and Sylvan Beach Seafood Cafe.

Less than 5% of shellfish reefs remain in Pumicestone Passage.

Human intervention is needed to prevent further decline and support the underwater ecosystem. Become a member of OzFish and be part of Shellfish Reef Restoration Projects like this one. 



AUGUST 2020 -Shell washer welcomed to power clean oyster shells in Pumicestone

Recycling used oyster shells for reef restoration work can be slow and dirty work. Australia’s only fishing conservation charity, OzFish Unlimited, recently welcomed a new purpose-built shell washer to accelerate the recycling process for its dedicated volunteers at Pumicestone Passage. The washer will clean recycled shells within the Shell Recycling Centre at the Ningi Transfer Station before they are sterilised in the sun for up to 4 months. OzFish Pumicestone Chapter purchased the washer with the help of a grant from the Australian Government’s Communities Environment Program that supports community groups to address local environmental outcomes. OzFish Pumicestone Passage Chapter President Elle Veary said the shell washer would benefit shell recycling on multiple levels.

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DECEMBER 2019 - Pumicestone Shellfish Habitat Restoration Continues

The project to restore the once magnificent shellfish beds of the Pumicestone Passage will be enhanced for the second time on Friday 6th December with more reef structures of recycled shell being installed off Kakadu Beach. 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, disease and poor water quality. On 6 December 2019, the third infill stage of The Pumicestone Shellfish Habitat Restoration Project will further enhance marine biodiversity and fish stocks and ultimately improve water quality in the Moreton Bay Region.

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SEPTEMBER 2019 - Pumicestone Passage Shellfish Reef Habitat Restoration Project deployment - 9 Month Invertebrate Monitoring

Samples of oyster shells were obtained from two experimental subtidal oyster patch reefs deployed 9 months ago as part of the Pumicestone Shellfish Habitat Restoration Trial. Samples of 100 oyster shells were examined for evidence of natural spatfall from rock oysters and other bivalves (honeycomb oyster, glory scallop) and colonization by other invertebrates. Results confirmed that survival rates of naturally recruiting subtidal rock oyster spat on the larger 9 month old reefs continue to be high.

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SEPTEMBER 2018 - Pumicestone Passage Shellfish Reef Habitat Restoration Project – 9 Month Invertebrate Monitoring

Results to date have been very encouraging, including a doubling of fish numbers in the first 6 months, and increased fish activity over patch reefs, crate reefs and BESE reef modules compared to non-restored areas. Additional trial patch reefs were installed with improved fence modules in December 2018 to examine if further improvements to the original designs enhance the outcomes.

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This project is supported by Healthy Land and Water through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and through OzFish with funding from BCF – Boating, Camping Fishing stores. 

If you’d like to hear more about the project contact OzFish on 1800 431 308 or email info@ozfish.org.au