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Committee for Geelong's Weekly Addy Opinion Piece - Shuck don't chuck

Oysters and mussels and harbour cruises - sounds like a tough day at the office, doesn't it? The Committee for Geelong recently joined a group of Geelong business and community leaders for a chartered boat tour on Corio Bay and into Geelong Harbour. It may sound glamorous, but it was more science lesson than soiree.

The charter was organised by The Nature Conservancy who, alongside the Victorian State Government and the Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club, are leading an ambitious project to create a thriving 'blue economy' for Geelong by rebuilding the once-abundant oyster and mussel reefs of Corio Bay. They are literally regrowing a reef, so shellfish can thrive once again.

Conservancy scientists showed us around Wilson Spit, where they are testing a range of reef restoration methods to find the perfect fit for Geelong. Like a living laboratory, they test successful restoration methods from other countries, adapting the methods to suit local conditions.

The project is the first of its kind for Australia, but why are shellfish so important? Project Manager Simon Branigan explained that "Native oyster reefs and mussel beds are nature's water filters: a single oyster can filter a bathtub of water in a day. We're seeking additional funding to create a reef five times the size of Simonds Stadium - that's a lot of oysters and a lot of clean water. And of course the benefits to fish stocks are enormous". 

Rebuilding the 'natural infrastructure' of oyster reefs creates employment in construction, science, technology, aquaculture and the visitor economy. These kinds of jobs are critical to the future of Geelong, bringing together our proud heritage of manufacturing with the rapidly emerging innovation and knowledge sectors.  

One of the vital ingredients in the project is a hard surface for juvenile oysters to grow on - preferably another oyster or similar shell such as mussel or scallop. Dredge fishing during the 1800 and 1900s removed most of the existing oyster shell from Port Phillip Bay, making it impossible for reefs to re-establish naturally. The Nature Conservancy'sShuck Don't Chuckinitiative - another national first - collects recycled oyster, mussel, scallop and abalone shells from Geelong restaurants, adds limestone and places them on the bay floor as a natural surface for juvenile oysters to latch onto. 

The Committee was pleased to learn that Shuck Don't Chuckhas the financial and in-kind support of Brambles. Better known for operating under the CHEP brand in Australia, Brambles offers shared and reusable solutions through a circular economy business model. In support of this initiative, the local CHEP team is donating containers to collect and recycle the shells, is providing advice on reverse logistics and welcomes willing employees as volunteers when required.

This innovative program is already reducing landfill and creating jobs. For example, Geelong Disabled People's (GDP) Industries, a local organisation that provides assisted employment, has been contracted for the collection, transport, sorting and storage of the shells.  As Geelong transforms, our community should embrace projects like this one that create natural, economic and social value for our region.

Rebecca Casson is the Committee for Geelong Chief Executive Officer. Follow the Committee for Geelong on Twitter @Comm4Geelong.


Group of Geelong business & community leaders take a chartered boat tour on Corio Bay



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