Projects - Info & Background

The Estuary Care Foundation is involved in a range of ongoing projects:

Shellfish Restoration

Restore the native oyster to the Port River and restore shellfish reefs

The Port River was, and is now, home to multitudes of shellfish. While shellfish were once food, they are now environmental agents.

Native oysters used to grow in oyster beds in the Inner Harbour. So, we’re returning the native oyster to the Port and providing the substrate they need for their subtidal reefs. They’re working too, with each native oyster cleaning a bathtub of water a day.

Our feral mussels and oysters are also water filters and can combine into multi-species reefs that can protect our shorelines.

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Shellfish such as oysters, mussels and razor fish, are filter feeders – they ‘sieve’ their food from the water. As natural ‘water filters’, they provide a wonderful ‘ecological service’ - helping clean up waterways.

Shellfish reefs are also important in protecting shorelines, especially as they are challenged by sea level rise. Reefs lock-up carbon and provide a foundation for a network (or eco-system) of other marine life.

While the Port River and Barker Inlet Estuary is home to numerous shellfish, the once plentiful native flat oyster, Ostrea angasi, is now found only occasionally in the Port River. Ostrea angasi has been classified as “functionally extinct’ not only in the Port River but throughout South Australia.

Restoring Ostrea angasi to the ecosystem and providing substrate for existing shellfish, will improve water quality, help stabilise shorelines, and enhance the ecology of the estuary.

Inspiration for our project is drawn from similar projects including the Billion Oyster Project in the Hudson River and the Elizabeth River Project.

Project Outline

Our project in the Port River is the first local, citizen science, shellfish restoration project in SA.

It is part of broader efforts to restore shellfish reefs, which once existed along 1,600 kms of the South Australian coastline.

Our three main strategies are to:

• Restore the native oyster Ostrea angasi to the Port River

• Provide substrate for reefs

• Develop reefs in areas where they can lessen the impact of storms and adverse weather events on the community

There is a lot of research and exploration in the project, because it hasn’t been attempted here before. So, we’ve been learning and experimenting, revising and documenting our efforts.

In November 2016, the project secured a $5K Community NRM Action Grant, enabling trials to begin with native oysters in baskets across six sites. Our sites include the pontoons of the Cruising Yacht Club and Royal SA Yacht Squadron and the wharves of the Australian Submarine Corporation and Flinders Ports.

Our project is part of the national Shellfish Reef Restoration network and benefits from advice and support through the network. The project includes volunteers of the Foundation and from PAREPG, the SA Malacological Society and the Marine Life Society.
For information and updates on progress, see the Posts for Shellfish Restoration.

Latest Shellfish Restoration News

May 18, 2023

ROBs research begins in Port River

OzFish in 2022 began deploying Robust Oysters Baskets (ROB) in the inner harbour of the Port River. In […]
February 1, 2023
Rachel Williams, OzFish Project Manager, SA and Michael Sierp prepare to offload ROBs

Trial OzFish Reef in Port River

Following OzFish assuming the lead for the Port River Shellfish Restoration Project in 2022, seventy Robust Oyster Baskets […]
November 1, 2022

OzFish takes lead on Port River Shellfish Restoration Project

The Port River Shellfish Restoration Project began in January 2016 and has been led by ECF since then. […]

Living Shorelines

Offer an environmentally friendly alternative, or addition, to seawalls

With rising sea levels and fiercer storms, and our low-lying land along the River, more structures for protection of homes, businesses and public infrastructure will be needed.

Living Shorelines along the River could include rocks, mangroves, samphires, seagrasses and shellfish reefs.

Living Shorelines can be more cost effective than hard structures e.g. seawalls, while providing the beauty and benefits of habitat.

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Port Adelaide and the Lefevre Peninsula are experiencing sea level rise, land subsidence, tilting and erosion along the Port River. That all contributes to the area being one of the most vulnerable in SA to flooding and inundation.

Tide gauging in the Western Adelaide region has found sea levels to be rising at a rate of 2.06 millimetres per year and 2.08 millimetres per year at the Inner Harbour and Outer Harbour areas respectively.

Sea level rise could exacerbate exposure to non-climate specific threats such as land subsidence from natural causes and anthropogenic activities (e.g. landfill developments and large-scale groundwater extraction), and saline intrusion of aquifers.

Sea level rise is also expected to intensify storm surge events. These are events where sea levels rise significantly above normal tide levels for a temporary period of time. Presently, the mean sea level at Outer Harbor is 0.13 m below the Australian Height Datum (AHD). However, the 100-year ARI water level for Outer Harbor based on current mean sea levels is 2.4 metres above AHD. This means that under a high sea level rise scenario, storm surge events could cause tides to reach areas that are presently 2.4 metres above AHD.

AdaptWest, the Western Adelaide Region Climate Change Adaptation Plan, has identified the risks that we are seeking to address and the solutions that we are seeking to trial (i.e. Living Shorelines), amongst its Priority Adaptation Options.

While Living Shorelines have been implemented overseas for many years, the concept is not widely known in South Australia and there are no demonstration sites established. NSW refers to Living Shorelines as Environmentally Friendly Seawalls and since 2009 the NSW Department for the Environment has provided guidance for their development in NSW estuaries. Their design concepts, and projects implemented in NSW, can inform our projects.

A Living Shoreline strategy facilitates natural systems while providing improved protection (both engineered and natural). Climate change, including sea level rise and the potential increase in frequency and severity of storms, has placed an emphasis on shoreline protection. Unlike traditional means of shoreline armouring, such as rock walls and retaining walls, living shorelines offer a range of benefits well beyond erosion prevention and shoreline stabilisation.

Living shorelines use combinations of bio-engineered structures with elements of native aquatic plant and, and even animal, communities to provide the intended shoreline protection while also providing desirable green infrastructure and ecological benefits. They, like shellfish and seagrass restoration, help to counter the greenhouse effect by locking-up carbon in what is termed a ‘blue carbon ecosystem’.

Project Outline

Our project seeks to act on the risks and recommendations of AdaptWest by designing and constructing trial Living Shorelines.

Given the risks, from adverse weather events and flooding, to existing and proposed homes around the Inner Harbour, this is a priority area for Living Shorelines.

The Estuary Care Foundation applied in January 2017 to the National Disaster Resilience Program for a grant for two Living Shoreline trials. When those application were unsuccessful, the Foundation refined their plans and applied again to the NDRP for a new project, in the Inner Harbour. That application was submitted in July 2018.

The Foundation is grateful for the support, given by the Coast Protection Board, Renewal SA, City of Port Adelaide Enfield and DEW, for our efforts to promote these concepts and secure pilot project funding.


For information and updates on progress, see the Posts for Living Shorelines.

Latest Living Shorelines News

May 17, 2021

ECF at International Conference

The 20th International Conference on Shellfish Restoration was held at Nelson Bay, NSW from April 27th to 30th. […]
December 21, 2020

Shoreline protection trial – 12 months on

In October  2019 ECF implemented a shoreline protection trial by NewPort Quays, in the inner harbour of the […]
December 17, 2020

Flinders University student monitors Living Seawall Tiles

ECF is delighted that students from Flinders University and The University of Adelaide are doing research projects in […]

Seagrass Restoration

Monitor seagrass health and distribution and support its return

The seagrasses Zostera and Posidonia have survived in the Port River and Barker Inlet, though their health and range were severely impacted by past pollution.

We now have significantly improved water quality and Zostera is achieving some natural restoration, a tangible sign of the River healing. Zostera is not without threats, so its status needs ongoing monitoring. Trials can also support its return to our shorelines.

Seagrasses provide breeding areas for fish and crustaceans; they improve water quality and stabilise sediments (shorelines in the River) lessening the effects of wave action.

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Seagrasses protect coastal infrastructure through wave reduction and retention of sediment, provide habitat for important fisheries, and are carbon sinks.

Seagrass meadows are an important component of the near shore marine environment of the Adelaide metropolitan area of Gulf St Vincent, where there are extensive subtidal beds of Posidonia (Tape weed), and Amphibolis (Wire weed). There are also extensive areas of Zostera (Eel grass) on the muddy banks adjacent to the mangroves in Barker Inlet and to the north, which also extend into the subtidal zone.

There has been extensive loss of seagrasses in the metropolitan region with significant changes to the marine ecology of the region. Restoring the natural seagrass beds will have major environmental benefits.

Of most interest to the Estuary Care Foundation are the intertidal and subtidal Zostera beds which, would have previously occurred throughout the Port River and Barker Inlet.

Project Outline

Improvements in water quality in the Port River and Barker Inlet are enabling the natural restoration of Zostera and encouraging restoration trials by the Foundation.

Qualitative observations by Assoc Professor Jason Tanner, SARDI in January 2017 indicated that Zostera had extended its range in the Port River, south of the Quarantine Station. He observed a thick band of intertidal seagrass almost all the way to AGL, and a few small patches in between the 2 AGL cooling water intakes. There was little seagrass on the mainland side, just a small pocket at Mutton Cove, which was then thick and healthy.

This significant news has encouraged the Foundation to establish three projects, two for seagrass monitoring and one for restoration.

Seagrass monitoring:

A volunteer team for monitoring from kayaks, along the western shore of Torrens Island, was formed in mid-2018, following kayaking instruction by Peter Carter and training by Jason Tanner. Foundation volunteers are involved in the monitoring and so too are volunteers from the Defence Shed, which is kindly lending kayaks to the program.

While the project has sought to utilise the methodology of SeaGrass Watch, there is considerable trial and error in establishing methods suited to our local circumstances.

The second monitoring program involves the deployment of two AusOcean rigs on either side of The Cutting at the northern end of Torrens Island. One rig is being deployed in the Port River, with the cooperation of Flinders Ports and the second is in the Barker Inlet. The locations were advertised in a Notice to Mariners (8/8/18)

Seagrass restoration:

In October 2017, the ECF applied for an NRM grant for a seagrass restoration project. Based on Dr Tanner’s advice, the shoreline just north of the Snowden’s boat ramp was chosen since it is quite wide and easily accessed and Zostera is not found there, having not yet progressed that far south.

In December 2017, the Foundation secured a $5K Community NRM Action Grant for seagrass restoration. Those funds provide coastal engineering advice while further funds, through a Coastal Participation Grant ($2,750) and the City of Port Adelaide Enfield ($700), provide project materials.

The seagrass restoration trial uses oyster shell in hessian bags, to protect translocated seagrass from wash, while also providing substrate for local shellfish to colonise the shells and form a low-level reef.

As a condition of our PIRSA Ministerial Permit, clean recycled shell is sourced only from SA oyster growers, for biosecurity reasons. The Foundation is sourcing bags and learning from OceanWatch in their trials in Sydney Harbour for shoreline protection.


For information and updates on progress, see the Posts for Seagrass Restoration.

Latest Seagrass Restoration News

April 5, 2023

Signs of seagrass recovery

After the devastating impact of the February heatwave on the seagrass Zostera in the Port River, it was […]
March 21, 2023

Seagrass scorched in February heatwave

Since 2018, ECF volunteer Steve Papp and Catherine McMahon (and other volunteers) have been monitoring Zostera along the […]
July 19, 2022

Recent Presentations

Over recent months ECF has made presentations to BAE Systems Maritime staff on Thursday April 7th Urrbrae TAFE  […]

Community Engagement

Engage the community with the Port River and Barker Inlet Estuary; it’s worthy of understanding and support

The Port River and Barker Inlet Estuary is an important area for research, education and recreation. Through the arts, community education and events, the ecology and natural and Kaurna histories of the Estuary are better understood and celebrated.

The Estuary Care Foundation is one of many stakeholders involved with the Port River and Barker Inlet Estuary, and its restoration; collaborating with many partners including volunteers, community organisations, universities, schools, businesses and government.

The Foundation attracts volunteers to its organisation and enjoys the support of members of other community organisations.

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Current activities of the Foundation, while community led, are informed by researchers and specialists who kindly make their expertise available to the Foundation.

Valuable expertise comes from community members who belong to organisations such as the Malacological Society and the Marine Life Society.

The Foundation hopes to profile the research, in the Port River and Barker Inlet, of our universities and research organisations.

The Foundation is keen to partner with research organisations to further investigate:

• Nature-based solutions to climate change

• Monitoring of key species including shellfish, fish, shorebirds, seagrasses, and mangroves

• Carbon sequestration from mangroves, shellfish, and seagrasses

• Filtering and reduction of stormwater to the Port River and broader Estuary

The Foundation will develop and promote project outlines for research and we are currently seeking interest in:

Thesis Proposal: Determination of Heavy Metals in Port River Bivalves, prepared by Michael Burrell, President, Malacological Society SA

Education and Community Education

The Foundation engages the community in understanding the Estuary as a living system.

Several high schools have participated in the Port River Shellfish Restoration Project and, as resources permit, the Foundation will involve high schools in STEM education involving water quality monitoring, oyster gardening, and habitat restoration.

The Foundation provides public speakers and organises public fora, to promote discussion of conservation and restoration, and the work of the Foundation.

Public meetings have been organised with international and national speakers on topics including coastal and aquatic restoration.


The arts can provide visual, sound, physical and other representations of nature, its challenges and restoration.

The Foundation has collaborated with local artists around the themes of our projects and welcomes further opportunities for engagement.


For information and updates on progress, see the Posts for Community Engagement.

Latest Community Engagement News

March 29, 2023

Tours and Field trips

ECF has recently contributed to tours, field trips and a school project: Presentation to Urrbrae TAFE students about […]
March 15, 2023

ECF Reports for 2021-22

The Annual Report 2021-22 and Special Purpose Financial Report for year ended 30th June 2022 are now available […]
December 15, 2022

Opening of Coastal Native Food Plants Labyrinth

On Sunday December 4th, Labyrinths of LeFevre celebrated the official opening of the Coastal Native Food Plants Labyrinth. […]