Marine wildlife incidents

The Office of Environment and Heritage is responsible for the protection, conservation, and management of marine wildlife in NSW waters.

In New South Wales, marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, dugongs, seals and sea lions, and marine reptiles such as turtles and sea snakes are protected under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), a branch of Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), is the lead agency responsible for the welfare of marine animals and provides advice on sick and injured marine animals as well as the management of deceased whales.

Marine mammals and reptiles may become injured or sick from natural causes such as disease, or from human-related causes such as fishing gear entanglement and boat strike. These animals may be found stranded or hauled-out onshore, entrapped in shallow water, entangled, or floating offshore. When animals are found in poor condition or distress, they may require specialist assistance from NPWS or an appropriate licensed wildlife rehabilitator that specialises in marine wildlife.

What to do if you see an injured or sick marine mammal or reptile

If you come across an injured or sick marine mammal or reptile, please report it as soon as possible to the EnviroLine131 555, or contact your local NPWS office.

Trained personnel may be called to monitor an animal's condition, assist in the rescue or release of an animal (e.g. disentanglement from fishing gear), provide veterinary advice or assistance (e.g. on euthanasia or rehabilitation), transport an animal to a rehabilitation facility, or manage an animal carcass (e.g. burial or post-mortem).

Do not attempt to care for a marine animal unless you are licensed to do so under a wildlife rehabilitation licence and have appropriate training. Responding to wildlife emergencies is a dangerous activity and untrained responders may cause harm to themselves or the animal.

For marine mammals, you may also contact the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) on 02 9415 3333.

For marine reptiles (including sea turtles) and seabirds, you may also contact Australian Seabird Rescue on 02 6686 2852.

Make sure you give the operator as much information about the situation as possible including a description of the animal, its condition, and the specific location.

Getting involved in marine wildlife rescue

ORRCA provides marine mammal rescue training workshops that qualify you to become a member of the ORRCA Rescue Team. For more information about ORRCA, please visit: ORRCA – Marine Mammal Rescue and Research.

Australian Seabird Rescue specialises in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of seabirds and turtles. For more information, visit the Australian Seabird Rescue website.

NPWS licences various wildlife rehabilitation groups to rescue and rehabilitate a wide range of native animals in New South Wales, some of which care for marine reptiles.

Find out more about getting involved in wildlife rehabilitation.