OceanWatch Australia has, for 5 years, been working to provide an alternative tool for shoreline erosion. Turning old oyster shell into living shorelines.
This program has been a huge opportunity to develop a process through which old shell (essentially a waste product) can be treated, bagged and used to enhance the natural environment. It also provides universities with research opportunities and an excellent avenue to engage local communities in environmental works. Recreational fishermen, commercial fishermen, oyster farmers, Landcare groups, landholders, state government agencies, indigenous stakeholders, natural resource managers, local councils and hospitality heavyweights have all been engaged in the program. Shellfish reefs once formed the backbone of many temperate & subtropical estuaries, and whilst small populations continue to exist in most bays and estuaries, these are only a small fraction compared to the numbers seen pre-European settlement. In New South Wales, researchers estimate that over 99% of natural shellfish reefs have been lost due to pollution, sedimentation, disease and habitat loss or degradation from coastal development.
To restore these crucial habitats OceanWatch engages engineers and ecologists, to design “living shorelines”. The “living shoreline” concept started out by taking old oyster shell and bagging in coir (coconut fibre) mesh bags. These are then strategically pegged on eroded shorelines, providing a home for a multitude of other marine animals, and a surface on which free-swimming oyster larvae can settle.
Over time, the oysters can grow together to form a reef, and the coconut fibre breaks down. The project uses 100% natural, biodegradable materials ensuring that these living structures help to support, rather than degrade the surrounding ecosystem. The technique is extremely effective in the short to medium term providing habitat and wave energy absorption but limited longer term as the current design of fibre breaks down too quickly and requires re application every 12-18 months. As part of a wider strategy they are a tool.
Funding support has been provided by the Australia Government, Sydney Coastal Councils Group, Greater Sydney Local Land Services, Landcare NSW and the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust.
To find out how you can get involved please email firstname.lastname@example.org
We would also like to acknowledge the assistance of the following sponsors: