Marine wildlife incidents

The Department of Planning and Environment 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 division of the Department of Planning and Environment, 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, reptile or seabird?

If you come across an injured or sick marine mammal, reptile or seabird, please report it as soon as possible to a suitably trained and licensed wildlife rehabilitation group or National Parks and Wildlife Service. 

Give the operator as much information about the situation as possible, including a description of the animal, its condition, the specific location and the best way to access the animal.

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. Trained personnel may be called to assist in any one of the following:

  • monitor an animal's condition
  • assist in the rescue or release of an animal, such as disentanglement from fishing gear
  • provide veterinary advice or assistance with euthanasia or rehabilitation
  • transport an animal to a rehabilitation facility
  • manage an animal carcass for burial or post-mortem.

Never 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.