Brilliantly simple idea to save oysters

Brilliantly simple idea to save oysters

The Moreton Bay Oyster Reef Restoration Project is a simple concept that aims to restore oyster numbers in Moreton Bay by collecting, cleaning and returning shells to the waterway.

A dedicated group of volunteers from the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group (ESRAG) Moreton Bay and Rotary Club of Redcliffe Sunrise have joined forces with OzFish volunteers to work on the initiative.

Spokesman Colin Scobie says they collect oyster shells from Morgans Seafood at Scarborough and take them to the Clontarf tip where they are placed in wheelie bins.

When these fill up, they are taken to the Port of Brisbane where the shells are spread out to dry in the sun for six months to ensure they are biosecure.

Working bees are held every couple of weeks, resembling a production line, where shells are washed and put into steel baskets and taken out on a barge and dropped into the water at the Port of Brisbane.

What happens next is nothing short of magical – within about 10 weeks, oysters start to grow in the shells and other marine life make the baskets and surrounding water their home.

Colin says the amount of marine life found in the baskets after such a short period of time is astounding.

At present, Ozfish has permission to place the baskets near the Port of Brisbane but Colin is researching the possibility of placing baskets at seven locations around the Redcliffe peninsula. He will need approval from the State Government to proceed.

Colin and other volunteers are counting fish at present to get an idea of how many fish are in the area before baskets are added to the environment.

He is working with USC, UQ and Griffith University on the project.

Labour of love

Colin is not a marine biologist, instead he’s a retired MRI and body scanner salesman with a keen interest in protecting the environment.

He says it’s clear the bay is not as healthy as it could be and the opportunity to get involved in the project came up about one year ago, when Ozfish gave a presentation at Pumicestone Passage with Healthy Land and Water.

“I was interested in the environment and that’s how I got to hear about it. I thought it was something the Rotary Club could take on,” Colin says.

“Everyone got behind it.”

Supporters include the Moreton Bay Foundation, Moreton Bay Regional Council, the Federal and State Governments, Healthy Land and Water, Unitywater and students from Redcliffe State High School and Southern Cross Catholic College among others.

Raising awareness

ESRAG now has a display in a vacant shop at Redcliffe’s Bluewater Square shopping centre, which is giving volunteers the chance to educate the public about the project and how they can get involved.

About 12 members of the Rotary Club of Redcliffe Sunrise regularly volunteer and OzFish has its own volunteers who also assist the project. They are keen to recruit more.

Colin says the Belvedere Hotel is keen to join Morgans Seafood in collecting shells for the initiative.

He says it requires vigilance from venue staff to ensure salt, lemon and other garnishes are removed before they are placed in bins, but the effort is worth it.

Colin says oysters are “kidneys of the ocean”, filtering 200L per day each, and while there are plenty of them on the Eastern side of Moreton Island there are fewer in the bay between it and the mainland.

This is due to diminishing water quality and "oyster recruitment" and even the high number taken from the bay and used in construction of Brisbane CBD many years ago, he says.

“The idea is to bring out some awareness. Moreton Bay is precious, it’s effectively an extension of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s part of that ecosystem that we need to preserve,” Colin says.

The group is looking for more volunteers to help on working bee days and more restaurants and cafes to collect shells. The next working bee is on May 11 from 8am-noon.

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