Noosa Council is set to partner with The Nature Conservancy in a project to restore Noosa River’s oyster reefs.
Under the proposal, The Nature Conservancy will contribute $1.2 million to the local project, with Council adding a further $1.2 million over three years.
The Nature Conservancy will also source an additional $1.2 million from the public and private sector.
“This is a rare opportunity to work with the world’s most trusted conservation organisation on a major local project,” Mayor Tony Wellington said. “Add in the $1.2 million being offered, thanks to a philanthropic donation by the Thomas Foundation, and we were faced with an offer too good to refuse. The big winner here will be the Noosa environment.
“Since 1951 The Nature Conservancy has worked on environmental projects in more than 70 countries. They employ over 600 scientists globally and are the world’s most trusted environmental NGO. We are very chuffed that they have chosen Noosa for this new project.
“In addition to reef restoration, the partnership will provide Council with a host of other benefits, such as access to a wealth of knowledge and expertise, plus strategic support for many other projects focussed on the Noosa River.”
Oysters are an important part of a healthy aquatic ecosystem, providing habitat and a rich food source for fish and other marine life.
“Studies have shown that a hectare of rebuilt oyster reef will filter 2.7 billion litres of water annually, remove 166 kilograms of nutrient pollution and also produce 375 kilograms of new fish,” the Mayor said.
“With 85% of the world’s shellfish reefs having already been lost, there is a real sense of urgency to reinstate these so-called fish hotels.”
A 2015 historical study by Dr Ruth Thurstan confirmed a dramatic decline in oysters and fish stocks in the Noosa River over many years. Although around three million oysters a year were once dredged from the river and its lakes, by the 1960s the oyster fishery no longer existed.
Council is currently working with The Nature Conservancy, The Thomas Foundation, Noosa Parks Association, Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation and the University of the Sunshine Coast on an oyster reef restoration pilot project. Although only in its first year, it has already recorded positive results.
“This next phase of the Bring Back the Fish project will enable us to put the research and findings from that pilot project into substantially larger oyster reefs. The Nature Conservancy have plenty of experience with this sort of conservation work, having built reefs in other countries, and also having created 24 hectares of new reef structures as part of their Great Southern Seascapes Project that takes in four Australian states.
“Ultimately this work in the Noosa River will increase marine life, which will have environmental, economic and social outcomes for the Noosa River system,” the Mayor said. “This is a terrific investment in Noosa’s future.”
Council staff will draft a detailed partnership agreement to go back to Council for approval.