November 11, 2018 10:00:00

When British explorer Matthew Flinders sailed into Port Phillip Bay in 1802 he was astounded by the expansive oyster clusters teeming within the water.

In his diary he wrote that “portions of tremendous oysters had been mendacity upon the seashores between excessive and low water marks”.

It is estimated as much as half of the bay was as soon as dominated by shellfish reefs, however like most that after existed in Australia, they’re now functionally extinct.

Aboriginal folks had been harvesting shellfish from Port Phillip Bay for a minimum of 10,00zero years, but it surely took only some a long time of European intervention earlier than the reefs had been decimated.

The Nature Conservatory marine restoration coordinator Simon Branigan mentioned the injury was attributable to dredge fishing, prompted by an “oyster rush” in Melbourne’s early colonial days.

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“When the Europeans first got here to Australia they liked their oysters,” he mentioned.

“They ate the oysters regionally, additionally they exported them internationally and so they additionally burnt the oyster shells in lime kilns.

“Loads of the historic buildings in Melbourne are produced from the previous oyster reefs in Port Phillip Bay.”

The reefs had offered a house for marine life, and the oysters and mussels additionally helped purify the water.

“In 2018 the bay is in a reasonably wholesome state, but it surely may definitely be more healthy, as you may think about, if we nonetheless had these shellfish reefs,” Mr Branigan mentioned.

Restaurant waste used to construct the reef

Three years in the past a workforce of businesses labored with specialists from america on a pilot venture to revive shellfish reefs within the bay.

One of many first websites was Margaret’s Reef about three kilometres off St Kilda — as soon as a well-liked fishing spot now decreased to a patch of sand.

A reef base was created out of limestone rubble and shells saved from eating places and seafood wholesalers.

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It was then seeded utilizing oysters and mussels grown at a hatchery in Queenscliff.

OzFish senior venture officer Ben Cleveland is recruiting leisure fishers to observe the websites.

Baited distant underwater video (BRUV) items are dropped onto the ocean flooring and the footage is analysed to maintain monitor of marine life.

“Leisure fishers are getting enthusiastic about habitat restoration and so they’re actually making an attempt to develop as stewards of their atmosphere to allow them to safeguard the game they love,” Mr Cleveland mentioned.

“This website is basically simply an indicator or an instance of what may be finished as regards to habitat rehabilitation and the way we are able to get rec fishers concerned on this type of work.”

Native anglers herald return of child snapper

OzFish volunteer Bob Pearce has been fishing the world since he was a baby. He mentioned native fishers had seen advantages from the reef restoration.

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Bob Pearce and Tony Spinelli stand at the back of a boat on an overcast day. The Melbourne skyline is in the distance.


Citizen scientists and keen fishermen Bob Pearce and Tony Spinelli on Port Phillip Bay. (ABC Radio Melbourne: Nicole Mills)

“On this space, as soon as upon a time, there was an infinite community of reefs and so they all received destroyed. We’re making an attempt to convey them again,” he mentioned.

“Though we had been reluctant initially to assert that there could be extra fish, properly actually there may be.

“There’s crabs, there’s octopus, there’s small fish … and so they would not have been there if we did not put the reef down.”

Albert Park Yachting and Angling Membership’s Tony Spinelli says lots of of juvenile snapper had been noticed at one of many reefs.

“On the earlier events once we’ve put the GoPro [camera] down, we’ve seen massive, massive enhancements in child snapper,” he mentioned.

“Earlier than it was simply barren, there was nothing right here.

“It is like if you happen to construct a home, somebody will transfer in. It is the identical with the fish.”










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