Back from brink: Bold bid to restore Coast river life
Noosa is part of an ambitious world first large-scale environmental oyster reef restoration program aimed at increasing marine biodiversity and providing hundreds of jobs.
Public information sessions on Monday by The Nature Conservancy at The J in Noosa Junction gave insights into the contentious $2.4 million oyster reef rebuild.
The project is part of the conservancy's 60 projects in Australia to rehabilitate its depleted bays and waterways.
The Nature Conservancy project manager Craig Bohm said if the goal is achieved, Australia would be the first nation in the world to have recovered "a critically endangered marine ecosystem".
In just a few years he expects the oyster beds to contain millions of oysters and attract more than 100 marine species.
Mr Bohm said Australia would be the first nation in the world to have recovered a critically endangered marine ecosystem if the projects succeeded.
"By restoring them, we'll boost the health of the estuary and provide food and shelter for fish and other marine life," he said.
"The combination of scientific and engineering advice and local knowledge will help ensure these new shellfish ecosystems will have the best chance to re-establish and thrive in the Noosa estuary.
"Each new oyster bed will grow on a foundation of locally-sourced rock and oyster shell carefully positioned to align with the best areas for natural oyster recruitment and fish habitat."
He said oyster-dominated ecosystems were once common in the Noosa River estuary and throughout southeast Queensland.
Noosa River marine researcher Dr Ruth Thurstan said Lake Weyba was described in 1876 as a major oyster source for the local Indigenous people.
"A visitor to the Noosa region the following year said he came across large mounds of oyster shells within the Tewantin area," Dr Thurstan said.
One of the middens formed "a natural wharf of considerable extent" used by the settlement's supply vessel.
Half of the restoration budget is from The Nature Conservancy, The Thomas Foundation and Australian Marine Conservation Society. The other $1.2m is being funded by Noosa ratepayers.
According to the The Nature Conservancy:
1. Shellfish reefs are Australia's most critically endangered marine ecosystem with less than 10 per cent remaining.
2. Every hectare of oyster reef per year would filter 2.7 billion litres of seawater, remove 225 kilograms of nitrogen and phosphate and produce 375kg of fish.
3. Provide up to 850 jobs in maritime construction, science, fisheries and associated service sectors with half of these in regional areas.