Oyster reefs are the focus of a new DPI restoration project.
Oyster reefs are the focus of a new DPI restoration project.

99 per cent of Australian oyster reefs are extinct

NSW oyster farmers are invited to share their industry knowledge and provide input on oyster reef restoration in an online survey, which kicks off a state-wide restoration project.

Once covering vast areas of the intertidal and upper subtidal regions of many estuaries, it's now estimated that 99 per cent of oyster reefs in Australia are now extinct.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Acting Senior Fisheries Manager, Charlotte Jenkins, said the survey marks the first stage of consultation on the DPI's Oyster Reef Restoration project.

"We're reaching out to oyster farmers because they have an extensive knowledge of the estuaries they farm in, and may provide a great insight into the practicality of oyster reef restoration," Ms Jenkins said.

"The results from this survey will allow DPI to fill knowledge gaps and work more closely with the oyster industry to address any industry-specific issues.

"The NSW DPI Oyster Reef Restoration project is a key management action under the NSW Marine Estate Management Strategy, as it's widely recognised that the loss of natural oyster reefs is one of the key drivers of the long-term degradation of coastal waterways. 

"Oyster reefs provide a wide range of ecosystem services (free benefits) to coastal communities including, the provision of food and protection for a range of fish and other marine creatures, shoreline protection, and water filtration." 

Ms Jenkins said in NSW, small natural oyster populations still exist in most bays and estuaries but at very low densities compared to the pre-European period. 

"Unfortunately, oyster reef loss in NSW has occurred due to a combination of factors including historical overfishing, destructive historical harvest practices, water pollution and disease," she said. 

"Oyster reef restoration is one of the suggested mechanisms for restoring estuarine health including improving water quality and boosting fish stocks. Similar restoration projects are underway in Victoria, South Australia and internationally. 

"Oyster industry consultation will be an ongoing project activity to ensure all social, economic and environmental factors are considered as the project progresses in NSW."  

The online survey is available here until 5 pm on February 28.  

For more information, visit marine.nsw.gov.au