More than 100 local residents and school students are volunteering to help grow mussels to rebuild shellfish reefs in the Peel-Harvey Estuary.
This ‘mussel gardening’ program is headed by The Nature Conservancy and funded by the Alcoa Foundation, as part of a project to re-establish shellfish reef ecosystems in this iconic waterway.
Once established, the shellfish reefs will enhance local fish stocks, help improve water quality and boost the local economy by attracting fishing and eco-tourism.
Over the next few weeks, Peel mussel gardeners will receive their specially designed ‘baskets’ containing juvenile mussels grown on a local aquaculture lease operated by Harvest Road Oceans.
They will then hang the baskets off their private jetties and start tending to them – measuring mussel growth and regularly cleaning the baskets.
“We are so thankful to our community shellfish gardeners, who will raise the mussels from juveniles to adults,” said Dr Richard Campbell, The Nature Conservancy’s Oceans Coordinator for the Peel region.
“The adult mussels will be used to help turn a new reef base into a living shellfish reef that will provide food and shelter for other marine life and bring many other benefits to the estuary and local economy.”
Dr Campbell and Project Coordinator Theo Kearing have trained the shellfish gardeners to monitor and maintain the mussels.
“Over the next six months, we’ll support the gardeners to measure mussel growth and survival, as well as monitor the other types of marine life that grows on the baskets” Dr Campbell said.
The project is a part of the ‘Three Rivers, One Estuary’ initiative supported by The Alcoa Foundation and delivered in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Peel-Harvey Catchment Council and Greening Australia.
Alcoa Australia Corporate Affairs Director Jodie Read said the company was proud to be supporting this important initiative to improve the health and biodiversity of the Peel-Harvey Estuary and the three rivers that feed it, the Serpentine, Murray and Harvey.
“These waterways are the lifeblood of the Peel region delivering vital environmental, economic and social benefits,” Ms Read said. “It’s vital we all work together to protect and improve these waterways, which are under increasing pressure, and the shellfish reef and the great efforts of our community shellfish gardeners are an important part of that work.”
Community efforts to grow mussels support The Nature Conservancy’s National Reef Building Project, that aims to rebuild 60 shellfish reefs alongside communities which need them most around southern Australia. If achieved, it will make Australia the first country in the world to recover a critically endangered marine ecosystem.
Laura Griffin, Currie Communications
M: 0400 170 663