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50,000 oysters find new home at Windara Reef

More than 50,000 native oysters were introduced to Windara Reef in mid-April as part of Australia’s biggest reef restoration project, led by The Nature Conservancy.

50,000 oysters find new home at Windara Reef
The Nature Conservancy’s Simon Reeves on the water at Windara with oysters Photo: Anita Nedosyko

This was the first of two oyster deployments for 2019, which together will seed the new reefs with over 7 million juvenile native Australian Flat Oysters grown in South Australian hatcheries.

This week’s oysters, donated by Primary Industries and Regions SA’s research division SARDI (the South Australian Research and Development Institute), are about eight months old and are all roughly the size of a 50 cent piece.

Windara Reef, near Ardrossan on the Yorke Peninsula, will restore an important marine reef ecosystem that has been lost from Gulf St Vincent for some time.

Seeding Windara Reef with Baby Oysters

Seeding Windara Reef with Baby Oysters. Video: The Nature Conservancy

Director of The Nature Conservancy in Australia Rich Gilmore said Windara Reef will help to increase marine biodiversity.

“Once fully established, Windara Reef will boost fish productivity and improve water quality,” Mr Gilmore said.

Shellfish reefs dominated by Australian Flat Oysters (Ostrea angasi) were commonplace in South Australian gulfs and bays in the 1800s with researchers estimating that they once spread across 1500 kilometres of coastline.

Today there are no known native oyster reefs left in South Australia.

Construction of Windara Reef began in 2017 with 150 limestone reefs laid across a twenty-hectare bare, sandy area just off the coast of Ardrossan on the Yorke Peninsula.

The baby oysters will start producing spat (offspring) when they are three years old, which will help create a self-sustaining reef.

Windara Reef is the largest shellfish reef restoration project in the Southern Hemisphere and it is expected to take seven years to be fully functioning.

This project is a partnership funded by The Nature Conservancy, the Australian Government, the South Australian Government, the Yorke Peninsula Council, The University of Adelaide and the IanPotter Foundation.

50,000 oysters find new home at Windara Reef
Australian flat oysters ready for deployment Photo: Anita Nedosyko