85% of oyster reefs have been lost globally
Shellfish reefs are at risk. Globally, it is estimated 85% of oyster reefs have been lost — even greater than the losses reported for other important habitats including coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses. Although oyster reefs are beginning to receive some conservation attention, they remain an obscure ecosystem component and still are vanishing at alarming rates.
Native shellfish reefs are currently considered “functionally extinct” ecosystems in Australia. Shellfish are ecosystem engineers that create conditions that allow many other plant and animal species in estuaries and coastal bays to thrive. Thus, these habitats are vital to the health of Australia’s bays and estuaries supporting fish production, improving water quality and reducing coastal erosion.
Shellfish reefs also provide foraging habitat for migratory birds protected under bilateral migratory bird agreements such as CAMBA (China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement) and JAMBA (Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement).