Making a shell of a difference to Port Phillip Bay

Geelong seafood restaurants are doing their bit for climate change and helping restore reefs in Port Phillip Bay at the same time, thanks to TAKE2 member The Nature Conservancy.

They’re handing over their used shellfish shells to rebuild the reefs that once covered up to half of the bay’s sea floor.

The project, which also involves the Victorian Government and the Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club, is the first of its kind in Australia. “This has been pioneered in the US through over fifty projects in the past decade,” says Simon Branigan from The Nature Conservancy. “What we’re doing is importing international know-how and tailoring it to local conditions by working with local scientists and some of the bay’s aquaculture farmers.”

Limestone rubble and shellfish shells are being used to form the foundations for the reefs. “So far we’ve used only limestone but will also utilise shellfish shells we’ve collected from Geelong restaurants and wholesalers.”

To date, they have stockpiled over 300 cubic metres of shells. These are quarantined and cured for six months with the support of the City of Greater Geelong and CHEP, and Geelong Disabled Peoples Industries providing the transport link. “The process is similar to composting where the shells have to be turned every month or so,” says Simon.

By collecting the shells for reuse as new oyster and mussel reef habitat, The Nature Conservancy and its partners are diverting that waste from landfill, which is good for the climate. “Over the long term, this project will also mean a healthier bay in terms of water quality and habitat for many fish species.”