NORTH Coast retirees are reaping the mental and physical benefits of healthy marine areas, according to a new survey of community attitudes to the marine environment.
The NSW Government Marine Estate Management Authority's long-awaited Marine Estate Community Survey shows North Coast locals have a deep pride in and connection to their marine environment.
The study found locals consider the marine environment very valuable, particularly in relation to mental health.
This was especially true for retirees, who found marine areas helped them achieve a healthy lifestyle.
Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said the survey confirmed coastal communities overwhelmingly support marine parks and sanctuaries.
"The Solitary Islands and Cape Byron Marine Parks are real assets for the communities of the North Coast," she said.
"They provide protection for the marine environment as well as fantastic opportunities for locals to snorkel, fish and explore some of the most beautiful parts of our coastline."
Ms Smolski criticised the Baird Government for being out of step with popular opinion on the issue.
"Given the strong support for marine sanctuaries in coastal communities, it is surprising and disappointing that the Government is still actively undermining marine protection in this state," she said.
"In March 2013, the Government threatened some of the state's most valuable marine ecosystems by allowing fishing from the shore in marine sanctuaries. The decision was to be reviewed by September 2013, but the Government has still not restored protections to these areas.
"When Mike Baird became Premier he said marine conservation was a priority for his Government, but so far he has failed to deliver. This summer, our marine life has less protection than at any time in the past decade."
Water pollution and loss of protected areas were identified as the greatest economic threats to NSW coastal areas.