Estuaries are unique and important natural environments. They contain a wide range of habitats and ecosystems including large areas of open water, rocky reefs, unconsolidated bed sediments, intertidal sand and mud flats, mangroves, saltmarshes and temperate seagrass beds.
Estuaries support a diversity of species of fish, shellfish, aquatic plants and animals. The protected waters provide vital nesting, breeding and feeding habitats for many species.
Estuaries also filter pollutants out of the water flowing through them, including pesticides, herbicides and heavy metals.
Estuaries are one of the most important of the state's natural resources and are some of the most intensively used areas of NSW. They have significant commercial value supporting industries such as tourism, fisheries and recreational facilities.
Over 80% of the population live in the coastal zone and coastal and estuarine environments are of great cultural and economic importance to the general community.