Pioneering shellfish reef restoration in Australia

Mr Simon Branigan1, Dr Chris Gillies1, Mr Simon  Reeves1, Ms Anita Nedosyko1

1The Nature Conservancy, Ocean Grove, Australia


Restoration of Australia’s shellfish reefs has been a key component of The Nature Conservancy’s Great Southern Seascapes program since its inception in 2014. There are now active shellfish reef restoration projects established in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria; Gulf St Vincent, South Australia; Oyster Harbour, Western Australia; Noosa and Pumicestone Passage in Queensland.

Shellfish reefs were once one of the dominant habitats in many estuaries across Southern Australia, however overfishing by the early European settlers decimated these reefs, removing a thriving ecosystem and vital benefits to human society. Restoration of shellfish reefs at scale will increase fish productivity, water filtration, stabilisation of sediments and coastal protection.

Pioneering restoration of shellfish reefs in an Australian context has required many elements to align. This presentation will provide an overview of the driving force behind the success of these projects highlighting barriers and challenges. Common project management considerations will be identified as well as restoration, communications, monitoring approaches and mechanisms to increase community involvement. The experience gained and lessons learnt from implementing these projects continues to unfold, and will be valuable information to natural resource managers and other practitioners embarking on similar undertakings.


Simon is particularly passionate about marine and coastal restoration – a passion informed by growing up fishing and diving in Queensland, spending many years of surfing throughout Australia, and 20 years working in restoration in estuarine and coastal ecosystems. Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy (TNC), he worked at the Victorian National Parks Association. He has also been on the Board of Directors for Surfrider Foundation Australia and as Chairperson for Environment Tasmania.

As TNC’s Marine Restoration Coordinator, Simon’s main area of focus is the development of our Great Southern Seascapes program in Victoria, which centres around restoring the lost shellfish reefs of Port Phillip Bay and making a significant and lasting contribution to the restoration and conservation of the states estuarine and coastal ecosystems.

Simon has a Master of Environmental Management from The University of Tasmania. He commenced working at TNC in 2014 and works from his home office in Ocean Grove and in the Melbourne office.