Nelson Bay exhibition features Port Stephens oysters

A diagram at the exhibition explaining the NSW Oyster Reef Restoration project.

PORT Stephens is a functional port servicing a fishing industry that provides fifteen percent of the catch sold at the Sydney Fish Markets.

The port is larger than Sydney Harbour and was once home to the proposed site for the nation’s capital at North Arm Cove.

Port Stephens once had an abundance of oyster reefs, which played a vital role in the health of the marine ecosystem.

However, more than 99 percent of our oyster reefs are considered ‘functionally extinct’ because of a combination of overfishing, habitat destruction, catchment clearing and water-quality degradation, land reclamation and disease.

The good news is that thanks to a landmark project by the NSW Department of Primary Industries, restoration of the reefs is underway.

The Tomaree Museum Association (TMA), in conjunction with the Australian Maritime Museum, has announced that the inaugural Bidhiinja Exhibition will showcase the ground-breaking initiative at the Nelson Bay Visitor Centre commencing 7 February.

“Oyster reefs are a complex ecosystem and home to over 300 marine animals such as shrimp, crabs, clams, snails and worms, as well as many fish species,” said TMA president Doug Cross.

“Without established wild oyster reefs, the water is dirtier, fish and crustaceans suffer, and shorelines are less stable.

“Reef restoration, which commenced in 2019, has resulted in the creation of a Sydney Rock Oyster (Saccostrea glomerata) reef equivalent in size to eleven soccer pitches, on which 34 million oysters have been established.

“The project is showing signs of success, filtering nine million litres, or three and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools of water an hour, and supporting increased numbers of fish and invertebrates.”

The Bidhiinja Exhibition, designed by the Australian Maritime Museum, shares the story of the oyster reefs’ rich history, important cultural value and significant benefits to local communities and estuaries.

It will open 7 February and run throughout the month.


Sydney Rock Oysters ready to eat. Photo: NSW DPI.

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