Breathing new life into Mandurah's waterways: Shellfish reefs announced for Peel-Harvey Estuary

Photo: Kaylee Meerton.
Photo: Kaylee Meerton.

The Peel-Harvey Estuary will soon be home to a $1 million shellfish reef in an effort to breathe new life into Mandurah's iconic waterway.

The local community will have their say to determine the exact locations of the new reefs to be installed, which will cover a total area about the size of two tennis courts, or 500 square metres.

Recently, the Mandurah Mail has shone a spotlight on the health of the rivers in the Peel region, which continues to decline.

Previous assessments from the 1990s have revealed, of more than 4000 kilometres of waterways throughout the Swan Coastal Plain, only about 1 per cent is in "near pristine condition".

Read more on the Spotlight on River Health series:

The shellfish reef project is part of a two-year feasibility study that identified rebuilding shellfish habitats as a top priority.

Funded by the Alcoa Foundation and working in collaboration with Murdoch University and local stakeholders, the study assessed suitable locations in the estuary to support native mussel reefs.

As part of the project, local residents will also be called on to help grow mussels in their own makeshift shellfish gardens to support the reef ecosystems with an ongoing supply.

A number of local schools and community groups have already expressed their interest in becoming shellfish growers.

The Nature Conservancy local project manager Alex Hams said the shellfish reef was paramount to restoring the health of the Peel-Harvey Estuary, as well as having plenty of other benefits.

"Just like the other shellfish reefs we've restored across Australia and around the world, this new mussel reef will help improve fish populations, water quality and biodiversity in the estuary," he said.

"It will also boost ecotourism, local employment and community connection to the waterway."

Peel-Harvey Catchment Council science and waterways program manager, Dr Steve Fisher, said they were also working closely with The Nature Conservancy and traditional owners through the project's Noongar coordinator, Theo Kearing.

"We're really supportive of the work that The Nature Conservancy is leading on habitat restoration in the estuary," he said.

"It connects well with our restoration work upstream in the catchment and rivers.

"The Nature Conservancy is a world leader in shellfish reef restoration and it is fantastic for the Peel region to have them working here."

This new mussel reef will help improve fish populations, water quality and biodiversity in the estuary.

The Nature Conservancy local project manager Alex Hams

Alcoa Australia corporate affairs director, Jodie Read, said financial support for the shellfish reef project was part of a larger, multi-million dollar commitment by Alcoa to Peel waterways.

"Through our Three Rivers, One Estuary vision, Alcoa is supporting a multi-agency and community approach to helping improve the Serpentine, Murray and Harvey rivers and the Peel Harvey Estuary that they feed," she said.

"By working together we can ensure the ongoing health of these waterways, which are the life blood of our communities not only from an environmental perspective but also socially and economically."

The Peel-Harvey shellfish reef will be one of a number of restoration projects around Western Australia, including a new oyster reef completed in Albany and a mussel reef underway in the Swan-Canning Estuary.

They are part of The Nature Conservancy's national plan to build 60 shellfish reefs in six years throughout Australia.