Students help restore shellfish reefs in Moreton Bay

Year 9 students from Iona College have been hard at work helping OzFish volunteers build structures for their shellfish reef restoration project this semester.

As part of their marine studies course, the students have built and filled 150 Robust Oyster Baskets (ROBs) with recycled shell which will be used as the base structures in the marine restoration project. The students also help place the filled baskets out in Moreton Bay in time to catch spat for the yearly oyster spawning.

Robbie Porter, OzFish Project Officer for South East Queensland and inventor of the ROBs said shellfish reefs are an incredibly important marine habitat.

“Shellfish reefs do a great service to our community and environment as they increase fish numbers, improve water quality, increase biodiversity, and can also help combat climate change.

“The reefs create complex vertical structures which make ideal homes, breeding locations and food sources for a vast array of invertebrates and fish. The ROBs will mimic this natural structure and help bind new shells together to form a natural reef.

“It has been shown that every hectare of restored shellfish reef produces an additional 2.5 tonnes of harvestable fish each year. So that’s a lot of fish and is great for our Bay.

Moreton Bay has lost approximately 95% of shellfish reefs rendering them functionally extinct in the area.

“This project is also exciting because we are using pre-seeded shells that were recruited naturally in the Bay via the ROBs instead of ones grown in a farm. This is beneficial because we will have far greater genetic diversity of shellfish this way which is a much better ecological outcome.

This restoration project, supported by BCF, is the first of its kind in Moreton Bay and the students were thrilled to be a part of it. While studying marine science they are also learning industrial design, mathematics and biology.

“It’s a great opportunity for the boys to be involved in trying to tackle a real issue that effects our local marine habitat,” Marine Studies teacher, Mr Neil French said.

“Rarely do students get an opportunity to get actively involved in something real as opposed to just text books and theory.