Marine life monitoring on newly restored oyster reef underway

An innovative citizen science monitoring project for Wagonga Inlet Living Shorelines (WILS) was launched this month, to help determine how well the restored reef is improving marine biodiversity.

NSW DPI Fisheries Deputy Director General Sean Sloan said the recently constructed intertidal Sydney Rock Oyster Reef on Wagonga Inlet’s sandflats in Narooma has been the focus of monitoring efforts by both local citizen scientists and DPI researchers.

“The local community in Narooma is playing a critical role in helping us understand and monitor the changes the new reef will create,” Mr Sloan said.

“The citizen scientists are assisting DPI researchers with monitoring the growth and recruitment of oysters to the new intertidal reef.

“We had 21 keen Narooma locals take part in the training day this month and the first citizen science monitoring event for the project, which shows how interested the community are in this work.”

This part of the WILS project is delivered by Nature Coast Marine Group (NCMG) and OzFish Unlimited, with funding from DPI.

Nature Coast Marine Group (NCMG) Vice President, James Caffery said residents of Narooma have been great supporters of this project.

“The local citizen scientists are playing a critical role in helping us understand and monitor the ecological improvements the new reefs will create, as well as helping to record the shorebirds which are already using the restored reef as habitat,” Mr Caffery said.

OzFish Program Manager for the NSW Coast, Ryan Lungu said he was thrilled when the volunteers discovered the first Sydney Rock Oyster recruit on the reef at the training day.

“Shellfish reefs are one of Australia’s most imperiled ecosystems, so it’s great to see the oysters taking to the reef so quickly,” Mr Lungu said.

DPI researchers have also started carrying out more detailed monitoring of the intertidal reef for the first time since its construction.

“Our team are counting the species, number and size of fish and invertebrates using the new reef with visual census, baited underwater video, and collecting sediment cores of invertebrates,” Mr Sloan said.

“WILS is showcasing how nature-based solutions to coastal management can deliver multiple benefits including protecting foreshores, enhancing passive recreational opportunities, integrating cultural values, engaging coastal communities, and building habitat resilience.”

The WILS project is a collaboration between Eurobodalla Shire Council, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) through the Marine Estate Management Strategy (MEMS), The Nature Conservancy Australia, and the Australian Government through its Reef Builder initiative.

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