When English explorer George Vancouver became the first European to visit the area in 1791 he was so impressed by the amount and size of the oysters growing here that he named it Oyster Harbour.
Unfortunately, early European settlers found so many uses for the oysters that by the late 1800s they remained associated with the harbour in name only. The combined effects of over harvesting, poor water quality and disease meant the oyster reefs of Oyster Harbour were no more. With the loss of the reefs came a further decline in natural values such as water quality and fish stocks.
After much with in our catchment by farmers, government and broader community the water quality has now been recovered to be able to reinstate our Oyster reefs. After nearly 150 years without them, thanks to a new project in 2018 by The Nature Conservancy and the Western Australian State Government that is exactly what is happening.
Oysters help the ecosystem in many ways. Their filter-feeding improves water quality and nutrient cycling. They provide safe haven for young fish and small invertebrates, reduce coastal erosion, and even soak up carbon.
Ecosystem benefits oysters provide and ecosystem stressors oysters are threatened by. Image courtesy of Chesapeake Bay NOAA Office . Foster Biodiversity- Like coral reefs, oyster reefs provide 3D habitat for hundreds of species. Oysters grow off of one another, creating a hardy infrastructure for a lively underwater city of marine wildlife. Reefs are to the ocean what trees are to the forest. Meanwhile, the deposition of oyster faeces creates a nutrient-rich seafloor. This combination allows seagrass to thrive, in turn encouraging species such as burrowing clams, worms and crabs, and ultimately underpinning the entire coastal food web.
Dampening the extremities of climate effect- The convoluted shells of oysters cast shade and trap moisture during low tide. This buffers the extremities of climate that animals’ experience, with temperatures up to 10℃ cooler than adjacent habitat during hot days.
Filter Water Improving Quality- Oysters filter water as they eat, which helps clarify the water and remove certain pollutants, including nitrogen. This is very important to a marine ecosystem, because excessive nitrogen triggers algal blooms that deplete the water of oxygen and create “dead zones.” A single oyster is like a pool pump, filtering up to 100 litres of water a day. Multiply that by the millions of oysters on a reef, and they become the kidneys of the coast, capable of filtering entire estuaries within a matter of days. Clearer waters let in more sunlight. Create Natural Storm Barrier- Established Reefs provide a natural defense against storm damage, softening the blow of large waves, reducing flooding, and preventing erosion.
Shellfish Industry, Albany
Shellfish farming has been conducted at a relatively small scale in Albany since 1991, when Ocean Foods International was established in Oyster Harbour. Shellfish species farmed in Albany includes the Sydney or Western rock oyster (Saccostrea glomerata, grown in Oyster Harbour), Akoya oyster (Pinctada imbricata fucata, grown in King George Sound and can be used as an edible and pearl oyster) and blue mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis, grown primarily in King George Sound and to a lesser extent in Oyster Harbour).
From 2020 Albany is set to become the home of Australia's biggest aquaculture development zone now home to Leeuwin Coast. Who sustainably grow both Albany Rock Oysters and Akoya.
We acknowledge the Minang and Koreng people as the traditional custodians of the land on which we work and live. We pay our respects to the Elders, past, present, and emerging and to the wider Noongar community.