New Port Stephens reef to boost marine life and local economy

The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment

The Hon Adam Marshall, NSW Minister for Agriculture

The Morrison Government is delivering on a $20 million commitment to rebuild native shell reefs, support local jobs and boost tourism with a three-hectare site at Port Stephens nearing completion.

The transformation of a disused oyster lease in Port Stephens to a thriving native shellfish reef that will boost fish stocks, improve water quality and help protect the coastline from erosion and the impacts of extreme weather will have the last of 4200 tonnes of rock laid in coming weeks.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said Port Stephens would be the first of 13 Reefs to be completed around the country helping to restore a network of native shellfish reefs that will support precious marine eco systems and increase fish stocks in regions impacted by last year’s bushfires and now, in some cases floods.

“These reefs once thrived around Australia’s coasts but were victim to overharvesting and dredging in the late 1800s,” Minister Ley said.

“Our $20 million Reef Builder Program through The Nature Conservancy is helping to reverse some of that damage with each reef capable of boosting fish stocks by thousands of kilograms each year.

“For areas such as Port Stephens, where fishing is both an important local industry and a major tourism attraction, these Reefs can have a massive impact on local economies which have suffered in the face of bushfires, COVID and now in some cases floods.

“In Port Stephens we have invested more than $1.6 million to expand the existing one hectare oyster area at Myall in the eastern basin to more than four hectares, with increases to the second site at Karuah in the western basin later in the year.

“We now have a reef the size of two SCGs with several million oysters which will boost oyster stocks for local fishers, provide food and shelter for marine life and improve local water quality by filtering and cleaning water.”

NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said the innovative project was designed to bring back oyster reefs in key locations to reap the natural benefits they bring to the local ecosystem.

“These projects deliver lasting change and benefits to these diverse ecosystems ensuring we have clean, healthy waterways for our communities and primary industries.

The Director of Oceans Programs for the Nature Conservancy Dr Chris Gillies said that shellfish reef restoration programs were delivering amazing results both here and overseas.

“For six years we have had a goal of restoring the rich network of reefs around Australia,” Mr Gillies said.

“Where we have established reefs through other projects we are seeing dramatic increases in fish-life from snapper to bream and flathead as well as crabs and other marine life.”

Reef Builder is an exciting partnership between the Australian Government and The Nature Conservancy will rebuild reefs around the Australian coastline, creating up to 170 jobs, engaging up to 120 local contractors and bringing marine ecosystems back from the brink of extinction.

Reefs will be built in NSW: Port Stephens, Botany Bay, Sapphire Coast; South Australia: Glenelg, Onkaparinga and Kangaroo Island; Queensland: Noosa River; Western Australia: Peel Harvey estuary, Swan River, Albany; Victoria: Port Phillip Bay, Gippsland Lake; Tasmania: Hobart Derwent Estuary

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