Aquatic reserves

Bushrangers Bay Aquatic Reserve, Photo: Joe Neilson DPI

NSW aquatic reserves are an important part of the NSW system of marine protected areas - map (PDF, 3060.7 KB).

Many of the 12 aquatic reserves in NSW have been in place for over 30 years. The first reserve was established in 1980 at Long Reef on Sydney's northern beaches, which now celebrates its 40th anniversary.

The following table lists the aquatic reserves from north to south along the coastline of NSW.

Aquatic Reserve


Region / Area


Cook Island


North Coast / Tweed Heads


Barrenjoey Head


Northern Sydney / Palm Beach

Hawkesbury Shelf

Narrabeen Head


Northern Sydney / Narrabeen

Hawkesbury Shelf

Long Reef


Northern Sydney / Collaroy

Hawkesbury Shelf

Cabbage Tree Bay


Northern Sydney / Manly

Hawkesbury Shelf

North (Sydney) Harbour


Northern Sydney / Manly

Hawkesbury Shelf



Eastern Sydney

Hawkesbury Shelf

Cape Banks


Eastern Sydney / La Perouse

Hawkesbury Shelf

Boat Harbour


Southern Sydney / Kurnell

Hawkesbury Shelf

Towra Point


Southern Sydney / Botany Bay

Hawkesbury Shelf



Southern Sydney / Port Hacking

Hawkesbury Shelf

Bushrangers Bay


Shellharbour / Bass Point

Batemans Shelf

* Bioregions are areas with similar environmental features. There are six marine bioregions across the NSW marine estate, five adjoining the mainland coastline and one surrounding Lord Howe Island.

What can I do in an aquatic reserve?

An aquatic reserve notification sets out the activities prohibited in each aquatic reserve. It operates together with other legislation including NSW fishing rules and regulations such as fishing closures, bag limits and size limits.

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.

Mining is prohibited in aquatic reserves. Development in or adjacent to aquatic reserves is managed according to the Marine Estate Management Act 2014, Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and other relevant Acts and policies.

A permit may be required for scientific research and fishing competitions in an aquatic reserve.

Please refer to the information on individual aquatic reserves by following the links in the previous table.

Values and management

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

Where consistent with the primary purpose, secondary purposes of aquatic reserves are to:

  • provide for the management and use of resources in the aquatic reserve in a manner that is consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development
  • enable the aquatic reserve to be used for scientific research and education
  • provide opportunities for public appreciation and enjoyment of the aquatic reserve
  • support Aboriginal cultural uses of the aquatic reserve.

Some reserves aim to conserve particular aspects of marine biodiversity such rocky shore habitats and species, while others aim to conserve areas of marine ecosystems more generally, such as the estuarine wetlands conserved in Botany Bay (Towra Point Aquatic Reserve), island fringing reefs (Cook Island) or small coastal bays (Cabbage Tree Bay and Bushrangers Bay) and their associated marine life.

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.

Aquatic reserves are highly valued by local communities. Reserve management is coordinated with adjacent landholders, local councils, local communities and waterway managers. This allows the land-based and water-based threats to aquatic reserves to be more effectively managed. Besides local communities, key partners include local councils, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Roads and Maritime Services, and boating, conservation, fishing and research groups.

Further information

Please contact us at

To view and download NSW marine protected area spatial data, please visit the Fisheries Spatial Data Portal