A plan to dry shellfish shells in Altona before using them to rehabilitate shellfish reefs in Port Phillip Bay has been proposed.

The Nature Conservancy wants to establish a shellfish curing site at the Dow Chemical site in Kororoit Creek Road.

The conservancy’s marine restoration co-ordinator Simon Branigan said it was part of the “Shuck don’t Chuck” campaign.

Tons of shells are collected from Melbourne’s markets and restaurants, then dried to destroy pathogens before being spread over limestone rubble on the seafloor for juvenile oysters to cement themselves to.

“Shellfish – mussels and oysters for example – are extremely efficient at cleaning the water,” Mr Branigan said.

“So, one oyster can filter up to 200 litres of water a day. They are very efficient at helping to make a cleaner bay.

“Also, shellfish reefs provide a habitat for a number of different fish species.

“There’s a bunch of different shellfish species, but it’s only the mussels and oysters that form reefs by cementing together and growing on top of each other.

“This will help improve the number of Australian flat oysters in the bay.”

Mr Branigan said in the bay, the reefs were seeded with hatchery-reared oysters or mussels from Queenscliff.

“There’s still populations of Australian flat oyster and blue mussels in the bay but the population base is quite low,”he said.

“And the problem is, when they do spawn and they swim around trying to find something to land on, there’s no reef substrate for them to land on anymore.

“We’re collecting oyster, mussel and scallop shells from restaurants and seafood wholesalers.

“If the planning permit is successful, then we weather and cure those shells for at least six months and that is just to kill off any marine pathogens before they’re used as part of the shellfish reef rebuilding process.”