In a win for the environment, Council today formally partnered with The Nature Conservancy to improve the biodiversity of our waterways through the restoration of Noosa River's oyster reefs.
Under a 3-year Alliance and Funding Agreement, Council will capitalise on the expertise of The Nature Conservancy's global networks and experience. This will include a project to restore oyster reefs in the river. Thanks to the ability of oysters to filter nutrients from seawater, the new reefs will result in cleaner water plus increased fish habitat in the Noosa River.
Cr Brian Stockwell said the partnership solidifies Council's relationship with TNC and is a huge win for the Noosa River and recreational anglers for generations to come. "As well as the oyster reef project, the agreement also allows Council access to the global expertise of TNC, including advice and strategic guidance on a wide range of estuary and marine management issues."
"TNC boasts an impressive portfolio of works across environmental projects in more than 70 countries. They have a global team of more than 600 scientists and we are thrilled they will bring their calibre of expertise to the Noosa River oyster reef restoration project," Cr Stockwell said.
TNC's Marine Manager Chris Gillies believes this project has the potential to become a leading national and global example of how local communities – when enabled by governments and the private sector – can make visible and lasting improvements to the health of rivers and estuaries.
"With a focus on practical projects like this one, we are hopeful that this partnership will bring more fish, marine life and cleaner waters that support the wealth of nature-based recreation and tourism opportunities Noosa is renowned for," Mr Gillies said.
Noosa Mayor, Tony Wellington, said, "We are also extremely thankful to local philanthropist David Thomas, whose donation to The Nature Conservancy made possible this project focussing on our Noosa River. We are blessed to have David in our community as his relationship with TNC was instrumental in bringing the organisation to Noosa."
Research shows that one hectare of rebuilt oyster reef will filter about 2.7 billion litres of water annually, and remove 166 kilograms of nutrient pollution. It will also produce around 375 kilograms of new fish.
The project follows on from an oyster restoration pilot project that involved Council, TNC, Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation, Noosa Parks Association and the University of the Sunshine Coast.
"We have learnt a lot from the pilot process which demonstrated how both fish and oyster populations flocked to the test sites, but so did boaties. The new reefs will, therefore be bigger and more robust to avoid the incidental damage by the boating public." Cr Stockwell said.
The decline in oysters in the Noosa River were confirmed through a historical study conducted by Dr Ruth Thurstan in 2015, which also identified a reduction in fish stocks. Findings show that approximately three million oysters a year were once dredged from Noosa River and its lakes, but by the 1960s oyster fishery ceased to exist.