Shellfish key to improved water quality in Pumicestone Passage

Shellfish key to improved water quality in Pumicestone Passage

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Oysters are more than just a delicacy - they could also be the answer to improved water quality in Moreton Bay.

A community driven environmental research program is setting out to improve water quality, fish stocks and seagrass through the restoration of highly valued shellfish reefs in the Pumicestone Passage, such as oysters and muscles.

Originally driven by the Traditional Owners, community members and community-based Pumicestone Passage Fish Restocking Association who were all concerned about declining water quality and fish and shellfish stocks in the Pumicestone, the long-term program will bring together partners from across the community including Moreton Bay Regional Council, SEQ Catchments, Unitywater, local industry and Fisheries Queensland to trial the restoration of shellfish reefs, a practice which has already been very successful in parts of the US such as Chesapeake Bay.

So why are shellfish so critical for the health of our waterways?

Bivalve shellfish such as oysters and mussels are natural filters of our waterways and are the base of the food chain, providing a source of food for a number of different fish species in the Pumicestone as well as structured habitat and reducing shoreline erosion by dampening wave action and stabilising sediments.

On the Sunshine Coast, they are also culturally significant for the Traditional Custodians.

“The once plentiful shellfish of the Pumicestone Passage are evident in the many totemic shell middens found on the shores,” said Susie Chapman, Northern Area Manager for SEQ Catchments and facilitator of the Pumicestone Shellfish Restoration Project.

Joondoburri elder Fred Palin acknowledged that the restoration of shellfish reefs is naturally close to the heart of the Traditional Custodians.

“They are not only important for our cultural heritage but also for the key role they play providing ecosystem services to the marine ecology of the region.”

The project has been made possible with funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, the Queensland Government's Healthy Country Programme, Moreton Bay Regional Council, Unity Water and the Pumicestone Passage Fish Restocking Association.

Moreton Bay Regional Council Mayor Allan Sutherland said council had contributed $20,000 to the first stage of the shellfish reef trial.

“We all have a responsibility to do what we can to protect and improve our waterways for future generations,” Mayor Sutherland said.

“Based on what scientists know about the importance of shellfish to marine ecosystems, the trial has the potential to help deliver further improvements to water quality in Pumicestone Passage.

“Healthy Waterways in their most recent report card acknowledged the cooperative effort of the Pumicestone Passage and Catchment Action Plan in rating the Passage as among the best in South East Queensland.

“It’s early days yet, but the shellfish reef trial could complement the ongoing results we’ve achieved as a community in the Pumicestone Passage catchment.”

Read the ABC Rural article on this story.

Decaying shellfish reef in the Pumicestone

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