NSW Marine Estate and protected areas

Marine protected areas conserve marine biodiversity and support marine science, recreation and education.

What is the NSW Marine Estate?

The NSW Marine Estate covers around 1 million hectares of estuary and ocean, including:

  • 1500km of ocean coastline
  • 6500km of estuarine and coastal lakes foreshores
  • 755 beaches 
  • 184 estuaries and coastal lakes.

It extends from the Queensland border to the Victorian border.

Everyone shares and benefits from these areas and the marine life they support, such as:

  • enjoying a walk or a swim at the beach
  • going surfing, fishing, boating, snorkelling or diving
  • deriving an income through tourism, fishing or shipping
  • practising traditional cultures
  • appreciating nature.

The marine estate contributes to our health and well-being and therefore it is critical these areas are well managed for the whole community.

There are 4 NSW Government agencies that have key responsibilities for managing the marine estate and providing advice to the NSW Government. These 4 agencies are members of the Marine Estate Management Authority.

Marine parks

There are 6 marine parks in NSW zoned to conserve marine biodiversity, maintain ecological processes and provide for a range of sustainable uses, such as recreational and commercial fishing, sport, recreation and tourism. The marine parks are managed by NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Find swimming, diving, boating or fishing activities in marine parks, learn why these places are unique and how they help to conserve marine biodiversity.

Aquatic reserves

There are 12 aquatic reserves in NSW.

The primary purpose of aquatic reserves is to conserve biodiversity, or particular components of biodiversity (such as specific ecosystems, communities or species), in a specified area of the marine estate.

Aquatic reserves are designed to work together with other marine and coastal management programs to ensure that marine biodiversity in NSW coastal waters is conserved and to support ecologically sustainable use of the marine environment.

Many aquatic reserves are located near urban areas, some protect key natural features of otherwise modified estuaries, and many have high levels of visitation.

Recreation and fishing in aquatic reserves

You can enjoy a range of marine activities such as boating, scuba diving, snorkelling and swimming in aquatic reserves.

The kinds of fishing activities that are allowed in an aquatic reserve depend on the biodiversity values of the individual reserve.

Fishing is permitted in some aquatic reserves as long as bait is not collected. In other aquatic reserves, however, fishing is prohibited in all or part of the reserve to help conserve all types of marine life in that area.

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