National reef building project: a bold plan to recover a critically endangered shellfish ecosystems

Mr Simon Branigan1, Mr Craig  Bohm1, Dr Chris Gillies1, Mr Alex Hams1, Ms Anita  Nedosyko1, Dr Fiona  Valesini1, Dr Simon Reeves1

1The Nature Conservancy, Carlton , Australia


The Nature Conservancy is leading Australia’s largest marine restoration initiative, the National Reef Building Project, to bring shellfish reef ecosystems back from the brink of extinction for the benefit of both people and nature. Hundreds of reef restoration projects conducted across the globe led by TNC and many others have demonstrated that shellfish reefs can be restored at scale and their benefits returned. We have decades of experience in building shellfish reefs all over the world, with many projects already well underway in Australia – Port Phillip Bay (Vic); Gulf St Vincent (SA); Noosa (Qld); and Oyster Harbour, Peel-Harvey Estuary and Swan-Canning Estuary (WA). Shellfish reefs are part of our national infrastructure, just like bridges and roads. They provide public benefits such as clean water and more fish. Rebuilding these reefs will help grow Australia’s ‘blue economy’ by providing a variety of coastal jobs in regional areas and sustaining marine-dependant industries like fisheries, aquaculture, retail, ecotourism and recreation. Over the next six years, together with governments, businesses and the community we aim to work with the community and restoration practitioners to protect and restore 60 shellfish reefs across Australia, making Australia the first nation in the world to recover a critically endangered marine ecosystem. This presentation will provide an overview of what we have done and how we will approach this bold initiative to rapidly expand the restoration and protection of valuable shellfish reef ecosystems.


Craig is a coastal and marine manager with a deep passion Australia’s coasts and seas. Craig grew up diving, boating and spearfishing with his brothers on Sydney’s northern beaches. In his day job, based in Sydney, Craig worked for over 20 years leading and supporting coastal and marine research, conservation, and community-based restoration projects across southern Australia. He also served on many fisheries advisory committees, developed a national sustainable seafood guide and marine project guide for conservation practitioners.

Craig then relocated for over 10 years to the shores of Moreton Bay, in south east Queensland, taking up a role as a national marine conservation advocate. He then took a different path, relocating to Jordan, in the middle east, advising the government on coastal and marine management, and also to Fiji, where he passed an exciting six years delivering coastal projects and eventually managing  15 country, 22 project climate adaptation programme for the German Development Agency (GIZ). Craig is the Queensland Ocean Coordinator for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and is based in Noosa.