Port Phillip Community Shellfish Reef Project

Port Phillip Community Shellfish Reef is a three-year project (2020-23) working to restore functionally-extinct shellfish reef ecosystems in eastern Port Phillip Bay and increase knowledge and build capacity within the recreational fishing community.

The project is working with recreational fishers to deploy recycled shell substrate and live shellfish at priority locations across the bay. This work will be supported by a range of education and training events.

The Port Phillip Community Shellfish Reef project is delivered as part of the Ramsar Protection Program.

This project was originally led by the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA. The Port Phillip & Westernport CMA is integrating into Melbourne Water on 1 January 2022 and from this date Melbourne Water will be the delivery agency. 

Why this project is important 

Shellfish reef habitats are one of the most threatened marine habitats on earth and Port Phillip Bay is an important spawning and recruitment area for many fish species. Dredge fishing began in Port Phillip Bay in the 1840s and has caused the loss of reproductive oyster biomass and the removal of hard substrates required for the settlement of shellfish. This activity ceased in 1996.

Restoring benthic habitat and improving the provision of ecosystem services (such as water filtration and productivity by shellfish populations restored at the sites) ensures the health and resilience of fish communities and water quality.

The project builds on the great work already underway through similar large-scale restoration efforts. Techniques from these projects are being adopted and this project will build capacity for future restoration programs.

This project is contributing towards the achievement of the Australian Government’s Fisheries Habitat Restoration Program outcomes.

Project partners 

  • OzFish
  • The National Centre for Coasts and Climate
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
  • Parks Victoria
  • Mornington Peninsula Shire

Timeline 

Year three (2022-23)Recreational fishers will construct approximately 400m2 of subtidal reef footprint.
At least 200 local fishers will be engaged in events, forums and on-ground restoration works.
At least 50 local recreational fishers will have increased knowledge and literacy in fisheries science and be engaged in restoration activities and citizen science monitoring.  
Year two (2021-22)Priority restoration sites will be identifiedTwo potential sites for recreational fisher-driven restoration activities will be identified.
Two preliminary surveys will be undertaken to assess seafloor condition and surrounding faunal community of potential restoration areas.
A workshop to facilitate recreational fisher knowledge exchange will be held.
Over 50 local recreational fishers will be engaged and educated on fish habitat restoration.
Year one (2020-21)OzFish was engaged to coordinate the restoration and community engagement activities.
In June 2021, PPWCMA, OzFish and local fishers used a Remote Operated Vehicle to search the seafloor for future restoration sites.

Funding acknowledgement

The Port Phillip Community Shellfish Reef project is supported by Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority, through funding from the Australian Government’s Fisheries Habitat Restoration Program.