PROJECTS

Noosa Oyster Reef Restoration Trial

A pilot study to re-establish a lost habitat in the Noosa River.

Globally, 85% of oyster reefs have become extinct as a result of over-harvesting, disease, and poor water quality. Lost oyster reefs are commonly replaced with habitats that provide less food or poorer protection from predators for fish, such as bare muds and sands. These profound habitat changes typically result in sharp declines in fish diversity and biomass, severely impacting fisheries. For these reasons, oyster reefs are being restored in many locations worldwide.

After a century of decline, the Noosa Oyster Reef Restoration Trial project aims to assess the effectiveness of re-establishing a lost aquatic habitat and remediate the Noosa River system using trial oyster reef installations made of ‘sausage shaped’ hessian bags filled with recycled oyster shells – a novel design by researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

To better understand the history of Oysters in the Noosa River, read Sourcing Recreational Fisheries Data from Newspaper Records.

The Noosa Oyster Reef Restoration Trial is one component of the broader Bring Back the Fish research program, a joint initiative of the Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation, Noosa Parks Association and The Thomas Foundation. Bring Back the Fish aims to progressively re-establish and restore resilient natural aquatic ecosystems in the Noosa Estuary, River and Lakes system through three key priorities: Noosa Oyster Reef Restoration Trial, Biodiversity in the Noosa River and Keeping it in Kin Kin.

Long-term, the outcomes sought are a considered balance between marine biodiversity recovery and sustainable recreational and commercial fishing; and to restore marine biodiversity of the Noosa River and Lakes system and Laguna Bay by restoring fish habitats and populations to levels that better reflect past abundance.

Outcomes

  • 14 artificial trial oyster reefs installed in the Noosa River system in November 2017.
  • Monitoring of the reefs in May 2018 showed strong recruitment of juvenile oysters, with vigorous growth recorded by November 2018, only one year after installation. This positive result shows we have identified how oysters can be developed in our river.
  • All reefs had spat settlement with an average of 300 spat per square metre in May 2018. By October 2019 we recorded an average of 350 new oysters per m2 of shell and up to 538/m2 at one of the best performing sites.
  • Ongoing monitoring continues to demonstrate that there is good settlement of baby oysters and that they can survive.
  • We continue to learn a lot about the restoration of oyster reefs in Noosa which is vital if we want to bring these systems back from the brink.
  • 10 of the 14 reefs were removed in February 2019, due to damage caused by increased recreational boating activity on the Noosa River during the Christmas holiday period.
  • 4 remaining reefs will continue to be monitored until October 2020, the end of the 3 year project. These remain in Lake Weyba and Weyba Creek.
  • This pilot study resulted in a $2.4m project partnership between Noosa Council and world-leading conservation organisation, The Nature Conservancy to permanently restore Noosa River’s oyster reefs.

Timeline

The 4 remaining oyster reefs will continue to be monitored until October 2020, the end of the 3 year project.

Project Partners

University of the Sunshine Coast, Noosa Shire Council, Ecological Service Professionals.

Project Value

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