Oysters Down Under

Restoration experts from Virginia and Australia share experience and expertise

By Daniel White on May 30, 2018

Andy Lacatell and Bo Lusk, The Nature Conservancy in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay director and Virginia Coast Reserve scientist, respectively, recently served as keynote speakers at the 18th International Conference on Shellfish Restoration in Adelaide, Australia.

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Photo © The Nature Conservancy

In Australia, as in our Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, shellfish suffered dramatic declines during the first half of the 20th century. By 1948, South Australia’s once-abundant wild oyster fishery had closed. The area’s shellfish reefs, along with all the other marine life they supported, had become functionally extinct.

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Paul Dee of Southern Yorke Oysters with The Nature Conservancy's Andy Lacatell (L).  Photo © Andy Lacatell / The Nature Conservancy

The Conservancy is determined to reverse this decline. We’re partnering with the South Australian Government, Yorke Peninsula Council, and the University of Adelaide to rebuild a $4.2-million shellfish reef across 50 acres in the Gulf St. Vincent.  The Windara Reef will be the largest such restoration effort ever undertaken in Australia.

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Photo © Andy Lacatell / The Nature Conservancy

Integral to this partnership and decisions to invest significant resources in Windara and other Australian sites is the demonstrated success of oyster restoration in the United States, including projects in the Piankatank River (a Chesapeake Bay tributary) and at the Virginia Coast Reserve.

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Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club.  Photo © Bo Lusk / The Nature Conservancy

Restoration efforts are also underway in Port Phillip Bay near Melbourne with partners including the University of Melbourne, Fisheries Victoria, and the century-old Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club.  Club members are providing their expertise, helping to identify potential reef bottom based on where they catch fish.

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Photo © Bo Lusk / The Nature Conservancy

“Shellfish loss is a global challenge.  Our Piankatank reef restoration in Virginia is part of a global network of projects that can all feed information to one another.” - Andy Lacatell

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Photo © Bo Lusk / The Nature Conservancy

“Our work in the Chesapeake Bay and on the Eastern Shore is inspiring people all around the world to restore oysters." - Bo Lusk

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(L-R) Bo Lusk, Ben Cleveland (University of Melbourne), Simon Branigan (TNC Australia), and Andy Lacatell.  Photo © Andy Lacatell / The Nature Conservancy

This trip provided an opportunity for both collaboration and inspiration.  "We were blown away by the enthusiasm, ingenuity, and burgeoning success of the oyster restoration projects and practitioners in Australia. We both came home to Virginia motivated and energized to think about our restoration programs in a new light." - Bo Lusk

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Photo © Daniel White / The Nature Conservancy

Deeper Dive

Take a deeper dive into The Nature Conservancy's oyster restoration work in Australia and here at home in Virginia.


Daniel White is a senior writer for the Conservancy based in Charlottesville, Virginia, and editor of Virginia's Passport to Nature blog.

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