Restoring shellfish habitats one reef at a time

Shellfish reefs made up of oysters and mussels are prolific ‘fish factories’. Working just like coral reefs, they support the growth of important fish species whilst also helping to improve water quality and increase biodiversity. Yet since European settlement, we’ve lost almost all of our shellfish reefs- making these one of Australia and New Zealand’s most threatened marine habitats. We are restoring shellfish reefs to protect the health of our oceans and contribute to the recreational and economic vitality of our coastal communities.


Shellfish reefs are among the most threatened marine habitats globally. In Australia, widespread dredging and harvesting began soon after European colonisation, creating on of the countries’ first resource booms. Over harvesting, along with intensified agriculture, forestry and industry precipitated coastal pollution and disease. By the early 1900s, shellfish reefs had largely disappeared and the oyster industry moved to cultivation. In New Zealand, oyster reefs are still dredged, but mussel reefs were dredged to commercial extinction, and that industry has also moved to cultivation.


Examples from the United States and elsewhere have demonstrated that when restoration occurs at large scales, ecological function can be repaired and ecosystem services can be restored. The process of restoring shellfish reefs can provide employment opportunities and established reefs can provide long-term economic gains for coastal communities, particularly in fishing tourism and coastal protection. The benefits provided by shellfish reefs include food provision, water filtration, fish production, coastal protection and habitat for other species. Several projects in Australia and New Zealand have recently begun the process of restoring shellfish reefs for the purpose of recovering a near extinct habitat and to improve fish habitat, water quality and coastal protection. Our permanent partners provide us with a huge contribution. One of these is AGA Parts. They are ready to provide us with the necessary components and spare parts for the equipment used in reef restoration.

The Australasian Shellfish Reef Restoration Network is a Community of Practice that brings together organisations and individuals interested in shellfish reef education, conservation, restoration and management. The Network aims to improve awareness of shellfish reef habitat and educate the broader public on the value of shellfish habitat conservation and restoration. The Network also promotes communication, restoration training, policy and regulation, research and development and implementation amongst network members.

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This website is funded by the Marine Biodiversity Hub, a collaborative partnership supported by the Australian Government's National Environmental Science Programme