Home / Projects / Shellfish Revolution / Moreton Bay Shellfish Reef Restoration – Queensland

The largest community-driven shellfish reef restoration project in Australia is in Moreton Bay Queensland

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

23,561 Hours

volunteered

800,000Kg of Shell

collected

6,466 ROBs

deployed

Moreton Bay Shellfish Recycling Centre

The establishment of the Moreton Bay Shellfish Recycling Centre is just one part of the journey to restore Moreton Bay’s shellfish reefs.

Used shells are collected from seafood businesses and restaurants across Brisbane. These shells are needed to restore the reefs as research has shown used shells encourage live oysters to return and reestablish themselves naturally. 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. The recycling center sterilises the used shells from disease and pests for up to 4 months before placing them back in the Bay.

Oyster shells that are recycled and turned into ROBs are regularly collected from 7 restaurants and 4 commercial shuckers.

Restoring lost habitat

These modular reef restoration structures will be positioned in areas outside of green zones where oyster reefs previously existed in locations that will not detrimentally affect seagrasses, wading birds, commercial fishers and wormers or create boating navigation hazards or amenity.

We will monitor the results of these trials together with University researchers and aim to scale up the most effective restoration methods over the coming 10 years with the goal of restoring 100 hectares of oyster reef in a decade. This has the potential to generate up to 250 tonnes of seafood per year.

Our Oyster Lease

Through funds raised at the Wynnum Manly Seafood Festival and ongoing community donations, the OzFish Chapter has been able to purchase an oyster lease to help grow baby oysters (spat) to reinvigorate the reef and kickstart shellfish reef regeneration.

Baskets were placed out on the lease in November 2019 and were filled with thousands of recycled shells. Within a few months, they’ve shown new shellfish successfully growing with oysters, mussels, and other shellfish. A recent survey counted the life on 200 shells and there were 1,123 new oysters and 457 mussels.

Over time the oysters and mussels will grow and bind together and provide ridged structures. These will then be transferred to the trial site to establish and form the new reefs.

The Robust Oyster Basket

Creating oyster reefs is a tricky business and often requires collaboration between communities, businesses and volunteers.

OzFish members decided to take advantage of oysters’ natural tendency to grow together in clumps and created a Robust Oyster Basket, affectionately known as a ROB. These make it easy to transfer the used shell to the restoration site and also ensure volunteers can have the opportunity to help deploy the reefs without any heavy machinery.

The ROBs is made from degradable steel mesh that is filled with recycled oyster shell volunteers help clean at the shell recycling center. The mesh takes about 2 years to degrade which gives the oysters and other shellfish time to clump together before completely rusting out, leaving only a solid structure of oyster shells and living shellfish.

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Help us build ROBs at The Port Of Brisbane

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Featured

ROB destructive survey – QLD

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Shellfish Filtration in Action

Our Partners

None of this work would be possible without the support from our partners and community groups across Brisbane and in particular the Wynnum Manly community.

This project is supported by Healthy Land and Water through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, Queensland’s Community Fishing Grants Program, BCF – Boating Camping Fishing, The Moreton Bay Foundation, Tackle Tactics, Iona College, Rotary and more.

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Donate today to support our mission to restore shellfish reefs to Moreton Bay.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What happened to shellfish reefs in Moreton Bay?

    Since European settlement oysters have been overfished. Many were harvested as food but the majority were harvested for the lime in their shells. This lime was used to make cement for the building industry. Today in many places, including Moreton Bay, shellfish reefs are considered functionally extinct. After nearly two hundred years of dredging the seafloor, shellfish have no structures to grow on and the populations are too low to allow successful spawning. The lack of shellfish reef adversely affects water quality and aquatic life and sadly are not coming back without our help.

  • Why are shellfish reefs so important?

    Shellfish reefs are living ecosystems. They are made up by many different types of shellfish but in Moreton Bay the main 3 reef forming species are; Rock Oysters (Saccostrea glomerata), Pearl Oysters known locally as Quampies (Pinctada albina sugillata) and Hairy Mussel (Trichomya hirsuta).

    Together, these shellfish create complex vertical structures which make ideal homes, breeding locations and food sources for a vast array of aquatic life including baby fish. Overseas, it has been shown that every hectare of living shellfish reef produces an additional 2.5 tonnes of harvestable fish each year.

  • How do oysters improve water quality?

    One of the most important things about shellfish is that they are natures water filters. A typical adult Sydney rock oyster can filter over 100 litres of water every day.  The extent of the lost filtration services in Moreton Bay has not yet been calculated, however  similar systems overseas have shown that oysters used to filter the entire volume of water within large bays and estuaries, providing exceptional water clarity which then promotes seagrass growth.

  • How are oyster shells recycled?

    OzFish collect oyster shell from farmers, seafood businesses and restaurants and take it to our Oyster Shell Recycling Facility at the Port of Brisbane. OzFish volunteers wash and dry these shells in the sun for 4 months to sterilise them. They are then cleaned and placed into “Bio Block” moulds and biodegradable scaffold structures that are then transported and placed at strategic locations in subtidal and intertidal restoration sites throughout central Moreton Bay where we monitor and report on the growth of these oysters and the use of these reefs by fish and invertebrates.

  • Who will benefit?

    Some 703,000 Queenslanders recreationally fish every year – making it one of our most popular pastimes. Restoring shellfish reefs will also benefit:

    • Amateur and commercial fishers by increasing the volume of fish that can live and breed in the bay.
    • First Australians by reinstating an important traditional food sourc (oysters were historically an important traditional food source).  Quampies are still revered by many Indigenous Australians in the Moreton Bay Region.
    • All bay users including; bathers and casual day users, boat users, charter and tour operators, scuba divers, school science groups, commercial and recreational wormers by improving water quality, fish numbers and reducing silt.

Latest News

6 September 2023 | Oyster Baskets To Make A Splash In Wastewater Filtration Project

Shellfish could hold the key to filtering nutrients in wastewater with a ground-breaking project in Queensland testing their effectiveness. OzFish Unlimited, Australia’s fishing conservation charity, has teamed up with Unity Water, The University of Sunshine Coast and Healthy Land and Water for a five-year, first-of-its-kind research project on the North Pine River, north of Brisbane.  

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20 July 2023 | Innovative Trial Could Be Game-Changer For Australian Shellfish Restoration

A new product being trialled in South-East Queensland could be a game-changer for shellfish restoration in Australia.   

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4July 2023 | Innovative Trial Could Be Game-Changer For Australian Shellfish Restoration

There’s a housing crisis going on in Moreton Bay but OzFish Unlimited is helping solve the problem while creating a population explosion for years to come through its shellfish restoration project. A staggering 96% of the area’s shellfish reef habitat has been destroyed in the past 150 years but OzFish’s Central Moreton Chapter refuses to idly stand by. More than 2000 Robust Oyster Baskets were strategically dropped into Moreton Bay on Friday as part of the biggest community-driven shellfish reef restoration project in Australia – the Shellfish Revolution. A mesh bag made from biopolymers from 100 per cent vegetation that has been sustainably sourced is being tested to see if they can grow oyster clusters in the Maroochy River and Moreton Bay.  OzFish Unlimited, Australia’s fishing conservation charity, has teamed up with Healthy Land and Water through the National Landcare Program and the Bunya Bunya Country Aboriginal Corporation to test out the pilot project. 

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17 May 2023 | Keep shucking, stop chucking: How oyster shell waste is rebuilding Moreton Bay’s reef

Almost 100 years after construction on Brisbane’s Howard Smith Wharves provided locals with relief work during the Great Depression in the 1930s, this posh precinct is now contributing to Moreton Bay’s relief and restoration. Among the jingle and clang of heavy industry, and almost as far as the Port of Brisbane’s claw stretches towards Moreton Bay, a group of volunteers is scuffling like hermit crabs, scrubbing, packing and stacking discarded oyster shells in preparation for their second coming.

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4 APRIL 2023 | Oysters back from the brink thanks to novel restoration

New scientific findings show that 3 million new oysters are living on oyster baskets built by volunteers along Brisbane’s coastline. A team of Griffith University marine scientists analysed all types of animals living on the structures placed in the Port of Brisbane, and found that along with oysters and other shellfish, another 4.5 million animals, such as crabs, live on and among the oysters. Lead researcher Marina Richardson, an expert in shellfish biology and ecology, said that although oysters were historically plentiful in Moreton Bay, the populations were now “functionally extinct”.

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25 JANUARY 2023 | Biggest day of restoration – one million oyster shells deployed

In an incredible moment for habitat restoration – we delivered our biggest single day yet this week when our volunteers deployed more than one million recycled oyster shells into Moreton Bay, Queensland.  More than 200 members and supporters dedicated over 2,900 hours to collect, clean, and deploy in excess of 16.5 tonnes of oyster shells. Thank you. The day was part of our ‘Shellfish Revolution’ in Moreton Bay – a program of habitat restoration supported by BCF – Boating, Camping, Fishing.

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2 MARCH 2022 | Moreton Bay coup as restoration takes hold

OzFish volunteers dived on the restoration site and collected several of the ROBs that were deployed last November. They were placed in specifically designed fine mesh bags, brought to the surface, and whisked away to be opened and examined by students and researchers from Griffith University.

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18 NOVEMBER 2021 | OzFish partners with Tackle Tactics to restore shellfish reefs

The future of Australia’s shellfish reefs is on the right track, thanks to a freshly-inked partnership between OzFish Unlimited and Tackle Tactics. Manufacturer and wholesale distributor, Tackle Tactics is the home of well-known brands such as TT Lures, ZMan, Platypus, Toadfish and Okuma, found in BCF stores across Australia and designed to help anglers around the country catch quality fish. The OzFish mantra resonated with the team at Tackle Tactics, who were looking to support the conservation and regeneration of shellfish reefs in Australia, aligning with the commitment they have in the US with the Toadfish brand they distribute here in Australia. Toadfish is a strong supporter of shellfish reef restoration across the US, having already funded the planting of over 200,000 square feet of oyster beds through sponsorship and donation.

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15 OCTOBER 2021 | Largest community-driven shellfish reef restoration in Australia gets started

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.

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3 OCTOBER 2020 | New oyster washer to triple Moreton Bay shell recycling

A new oyster shell washing plant is to start operation at the Port of Brisbane this weekend to boost shellfish reef restoration efforts. The washer will be used for washing and preparing shells recovered from Brisbane restaurants, pubs and professional shuckers to be reused to restore shellfish reefs of Moreton Bay. The facility is the work of the local Moreton Bay Chapter of OzFish Unlimited – Australia’s fishing conservation charity. OzFish Unlimited SEQ Project Officer Robbie Porter said the washer would speed up work that previously had been done by hand by

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16 DECEMBER 2020 | Students help restore shellfish reefs in Moreton Bay

Year 9 students from Iona College, Brisbane 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.

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This project is supported by Healthy Land and Water through funding from the Australian Government’s Fish Habitat Restoration Program as part of the National Landcare Program.
This project would not be possible without the support from corporate, university and philanthropic partners who are invaluable in contributing to the work of OzFish in the community.

If you would like to partner with us or would like to know more about getting involved contact OzFish on 1800 431 308 or email info@ozfish.org.au.