South Melbourne Market and The Nature Conservancy team up on shell recycling project

South Melbourne Market and The Nature Conservancy have teamed up on a shell recycling project to help rebuild the lost shellfish reefs of Port Phillip Bay.

As a consequence of past over fishing, poor water quality and increased sediments, the shellfish ecosystems that were previously thought to occupy up to half of Port Phillip Bay’s seafloor are now considered an ‘ecologically collapsed’ ecosystem.

In an effort to restore some of these precious ecosystems, The Nature Conservancy will be collecting mollusc shells recycled from the Market's seafood traders, restaurants and at the upcoming Port Phillip Mussel & Jazz Festival, and using them in an innovative project to re-establish mussel and oyster reefs at Wilson Spit Reef (Geelong Arm) and Margaret’s Reef (Hobsons Bay).

The process works like this: Mussel, oyster and scallop shells are collected in large black bins at the Market, picked up weekly by Geelong Disabled People’s Industries, and taken to a site on the Bellarine Peninsula. Here they are left to cure through sun and wind exposure for six months to ensure there are no diseases or pathogens.

Once cured, they are then mixed with limestone rubble and spread across the sea floor at two sites in the bay. Hatchery reared juvenile Australian flat oysters (Ostrea angasi) and blue mussels (Mytilus edulis galloprovincialis) are then spread over the shells so that new reefs can form.

Shell recycling provides a sustainable way for the Market to deal with shellfish waste while decreasing landfill, and it’s another way the Market is helping to protect our planet.

You can help by putting your shells into the correct black bins and making sure no other plastic or other contaminants go into these bins.