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Restoring Adelaide’s lost shellfish reefs

An exciting partnership between the South Australian Government and The Nature Conservancy is rebuilding living shellfish reefs in South Australia.

The two-hectare shellfish reef has been constructed at Glenelg using a limestone reef base, with hatchery-raised Australian Flat Oysters deployed to re-create a living shellfish reef over the next several years.

The state government invested $1.2 million in the reef to create a flourishing marine environment that creates new habitat and supports fish.

The Nature Conservancy, who were also involved in Windara Reef, delivered the project in partnership with the department and the City of Holdfast Bay.

Watch a video to learn about shellfish reefs:

View an animation to see how a newly restored oyster reef grows and develops over time.

Did you know?

  • Living reefs dominated by Australian flat oysters were common in South Australia’s gulfs and bays in the 1800s, spreading across 1,500 km of coastline.
  • Today, no reefs of this kind remain - mainly because of the impact of historical fishing, dredging, water pollution and disease.
  • Building a living reef off Adelaide’s metropolitan coast aims to restore the social, economic and environmental benefits they bring – more fish, cleaner water and increased biodiversity.
  • Restored reefs go further than simply attracting fish as regular artificial reefs do – they re-establish a whole ecosystem with its complex food webs and are much more efficient at boosting fish stocks.
  • Oysters can filter up to 100 litres of water each per day, helping keep our ocean waters cleaner.


Fast facts

  • The reef at Glenelg is around the size of Adelaide Oval (2 hectares).
  • The reef is constructed using a limestone reef base over which hatchery raised Australian Flat Oysters have been deployed to re-create a living shellfish reef over the next several years.
  • Over time as the shellfish grow and develop, the reefs will deliver productive and resilient habitat for marine life.
  • Reefs can play a vital role in the underwater nutrient cycle, which can assist in seagrass growth, and can even act as a ‘blue carbon’ sink thanks to the way their shells are formed.

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