“Shellfish Revolution” turns Moreton Bay into underwater Mecca

Image: OzFish Unlimited

MORE than 2000 Robust Oyster Baskets have been strategically dropped into Moreton Bay as part of the biggest community-driven shellfish reef restoration project in Australia – the Shellfish Revolution.

OzFish volunteers deployed a staggering 2265 Robust Oyster Baskets in one day at the restoration site, taking the total number to an incredible 6465 since the project launched nearly two years ago. 

The Robust Oyster Baskets also known as ROBs are made from degradable steel mesh, filled with recycled oyster shells that volunteers help clean at the recycling centre. All up there were more than 2.7 million shells packed into the baskets, bringing the grand total to just under 7.8 million repurposed for restoration.

The baskets take about two years to degrade, which gives the oysters and other shellfish time to clump together, leaving only a solid structure of oyster shells and living shellfish.

“The basket was inspired by First Nations elder Fred Palin, who’s a Kabi Kabi elder. And he said what if the basket was a triangular prism. That inspired us to use the system that we use,” said Robbie Porter, OzFish Senior Special Projects Officer – Shellfish Revolution.

“The big advantages are you use half as much shell for the same size. We also wanted to get as much of the baskets off the ground and they do that well. They’re also easy and portable for volunteers to move.

“You get good water flow, the shells give heaps of nooks and crannies not just for oysters and other shellfish to grow on but heaps of other animals to grow in and amongst.

“Once they’re in the water, the oysters grow on the shells and they actually cement the shells together. The wire is designed to dissolve so that after about two years there’s nothing left and you’re only left with a clump of oysters.

“This mimics the remnant reefs that we see in places that haven’t been mined like Turkey Beach, Gladstone, Mackay, Weipa, Yeppoon and Proserpine.”

The results from a study conducted by Griffith University on the previously deployed ROBs are nothing short of astonishing. Each ROB creates 626 new homes for shellfish, as well as providing shelter for a remarkable 1120 other animals including crabs, worms, prawns and other creatures.

This incredible achievement amounts to more than 11 million new animals now thriving on the site, showcasing a massive increase in biodiversity.

After OzFish put the word out last week that the stars had aligned for the ROBs to be deployed, 17 volunteers quickly put their hand up to jump on a barge to throw them in an area of 19.6 hectares which was graciously donated to OzFish for use by the Port of Brisbane.

OzFish has already successfully restored 10 hectares of shellfish reefs, which has contributed to the generation of 2500 tonnes of additional harvestable fish for Moreton Bay, year after year, forever.

“The scientists tell us that the oyster shells have a chemical signature in them which are very attractive to spat,” Porter said.

“We have dozens of really dedicated volunteers who come in and work hard on both process improvement and in making these baskets, which not only saves a lot of money but ensures they’re all of a high quality.

“We collect the shells from restaurants and commercial oyster shuckers.

“It’s got some great results and the biggest thing is the community groups are the ones that put them in. They get a sense of stewardship from that.

“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the exceptional OzFish Central Moreton Chapter volunteers for their tireless dedication in supporting this work. Without their time and ingenuity this project wouldn’t be possible.”

More information HERE.

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