2019 brings a focus on restoring natural oyster reefs along the New South Wales coastline, with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) launching the Oyster Reef Restoration Project.
As a starting point, Eurobodalla and Bega Valley oyster farmers are invited to have input via an online survey.
NSW Acting Senior Fisheries Manager, Charlotte Jenkins, says the restoration project is a key action under the $45.7 million NSW Marine Estate Management Strategy.
“It’s widely recognised that the loss of natural oyster reefs is one of the key drivers of the long-term degradation of coastal waterways,” she says.
“Oyster reefs provide a wide range of ecosystem services to coastal communities including, the provision of food and protection for a range of fish and other marine creatures, shoreline protection, and water filtration.”
Oyster reefs previously covered vast areas of the intertidal and upper subtidal regions in many NSW estuaries, however, it is estimated that 99% of oyster reefs in Australia are now extinct.
Ms Jenkins says in NSW, small natural oyster populations still exist in most bays and estuaries but at very low densities compared to the pre-European period.
“Unfortunately, oyster reef loss in NSW has occurred due to a combination of factors including historical overfishing, destructive historical harvest practices, water pollution, and disease,” she says.
“Oyster reef restoration is one of the suggested mechanisms for restoring estuarine health including improving water quality and boosting fish stocks. Similar restoration projects are underway in Victoria, South Australia and internationally.”
The industry survey that has just gone live is the first stage of consultation as the project rolls out.
“We’re reaching out to oyster farmers because they have an extensive knowledge of the estuaries they farm in, and may provide a great insight into the practicality of oyster reef restoration,” Ms Jenkins says.
The aim of the survey is to:
- Gauge the NSW Oyster Industry’s knowledge of natural oyster reefs and Oyster Reef Restoration;
- Determine the level of NSW Oyster Industry support for future Oyster Reef Restoration projects.
“The results from this survey will allow DPI to fill knowledge gaps and work more closely with the oyster industry to address any industry-specific issues,” Ms Jenkins says.
The online survey takes 8 to 10 minutes to complete and is available HERE until 5 pm on February 28.