More than 50,000 native oysters have been introduced to Windara Reef as part of Australia’s biggest reef restoration project, led by The Nature Conservancy.
This is the first of two oyster deployments for 2019, which together will seed the new reefs with over 7 million juvenile native Australian Flat Oysters grown in South Australian hatcheries.
The oysters, donated by Primary Industries and Regions SA’s research division SARDI (the South Australian Research and Development Institute), are about eight months old and are all roughly the size of a 50 cent piece.
South Australian Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs said Windara Reef, near Ardrossan on the Yorke Peninsula, will restore an important marine reef ecosystem that has been lost from Gulf St Vincent for some time.
“This project will result in economic and social benefit to the nearby communities of Yorke Peninsula through the creation of new jobs, particularly tourism associated with recreation and fishing, as well as new volunteering and community education programs,” said Minister Speirs.
Director of The Nature Conservancy in Australia Rich Gilmore said Windara Reef will help to increase marine biodiversity.”Once fully established, Windara Reef will boost fish productivity and improve water quality,” said Mr Gilmore.
SA Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said SARDI’s research has contributed to the understanding of the reproductive cycle of this species in South Australia and the production of native oyster spat.
“I’m extremely pleased that SARDI’s capabilities have recently been used to assist both commercial and environmental interests for the benefit of South Australia” said Minister Whetstone.
Shellfish reefs dominated by Australian Flat Oysters (Ostrea angasi) were commonplace in South Australian gulfs and bays in the 1800s with researchers estimating that they once spread across 1500 kilometres of coastline.
“We have no known native oyster reefs left in South Australia,” Minister Whetstone added.
Construction of Windara Reef began in 2017 with 150 limestone reefs laid across a twenty-hectare bare, sandy area just off the coast of Ardrossan on the Yorke Peninsula.
The baby oysters will start producing spat (offspring) when they are three years old, which will help create a self-sustaining reef.
Windara Reef is the largest shellfish reef restoration project in the Southern Hemisphere and it is expected to take seven years to be fully functioning.
The project is a partnership funded by The Nature Conservancy, the Australian Government, the South Australian Government, the Yorke Peninsula Council, RecFish SA and The University of Adelaide.
This article was first published in R4A.