NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries researchers will be hitting the water from 29 January 2019 to trial different methods to restore oyster reefs.

NSW DPI Fisheries Manager, Kirk Dahle, said the trial studies will inform the oyster reef restoration project that is scheduled to commence in Port Stephens estuary in early 2020, as part of the Marine Estate Management Strategy.

“Trials will test various oyster reef restoration methods around the Port Stephens estuary to identify best practices for restoring these key habitats,” Mr Dahle said.

“Lessons learned in the Port Stephens oyster reef restoration project will help to create a template for rolling out this approach across other NSW estuaries.

“There will opportunities for the community to get involved in the oyster reef restoration project, so we’ll be releasing relevant information on this soon.”

Oyster reefs previously covered vast areas of the intertidal and upper subtidal regions of many estuaries in NSW.

The NSW DPI Oyster Reef Restoration project is a key management action under the Marine Estate Management Strategy, as oyster reefs provide a wide range of benefits including water filtration, the provision of food, shelter and protection for a range of marine creatures including recreational and commercial fish species and shoreline protection.

Mr Dahle said oyster reef loss in NSW has occurred due to a combination of factors including overfishing, destructive colonial fishing practices, water pollution and disease.

“It is estimated around 99% of oyster reefs in Australia are now extinct, which has had a devastating impact on our coastal waterways,” he said.

“Nowadays in NSW, small natural oyster populations still exist in most bays and estuaries but at very low densities compared to the pre-European period.

“Oyster reef restoration is one of the suggested mechanisms for restoring estuarine health including improving water quality and boosting fish stocks.”

The Marine Estate Management Strategy is a 10 year whole of government plan to assist in achieving the vision of the marine estate.