Review into the management of deceased whales

We are reviewing how deceased whales are managed on our beaches. The review will investigate public concerns, explore the science and suggest potential changes that can give the community greater confidence.

In response to growing public concern that whale carcasses buried on beaches attract sharks and negatively impact the local environment, the Government is reviewing how we manage deceased whales in New South Wales.

The review is being undertaken by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH). OEH is responsible for protecting and managing marine mammals in New South Wales and, as subject matter experts, OEH provides support and advice to other land managers when they need to deal with deceased whales on their lands.

Current whale disposal methods in New South Wales

Land managers, generally local councils, National Parks and Wildlife Service (a branch of OEH), Department of Industry – Crown Land or Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries are responsible for managing deceased whales.

Under current practices, whale carcasses may be left in-situ, buried, or transported to landfill or specified grave sites depending on the whale's size, state of decomposition and location. As whale numbers increase, it is likely land managers will need to deal with whale carcasses more regularly.

However, there is no published best practice guideline or common resources that land managers can access to guide their decision making.

Do buried whales attract sharks?

In late 2016 the NSW Government partnered with Southern Cross University to fund a world-first, 3-year study to establish scientific evidence as to whether whale carcasses buried on beaches attract sharks. In addition, this review will look at whether management options can be implemented that appropriately address community concerns about sharks.

Delivering practical guidance to help land managers and the community

This review will deliver practical information and best practice guidance that the public and land managers can use to help ensure deceased whales are managed safely and effectively.

OEH is consulting directly with key stakeholders with responsibilities relevant to dealing with deceased whales, including land managers and scientific experts. In addition, feedback from any affected groups will inform the review's recommendations, and help identify key research areas that could remedy essential knowledge gaps. Details for how to provide this feedback are provided below.

Final report

The practical information and best practice guidance developed through this work will be published on this website.

The NSW Government acknowledges that providing the outcomes of the review is not a single task, but aims to provide a pathway to ensure that communities are effectively advised and engaged when whale disposal incidents occur in the future.

Tell us your thoughts

If you have any information you believe should be considered during the review, please contact the review project team by emailing

You can also write a letter to:

The Project Officer
Deceased Whale Management Review
Office of Environment and Heritage
PO Box A290
Sydney South NSW 1232

Terms of Reference

1. Context

1.1 The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is the lead agency for managing marine mammals. Management is guided by the NPWS Marine Wildlife Management Manual.

1.2 Whale carcass management is the responsibility of the relevant land manager – NPWS, local councils or Crown Lands.

1.3 Whale numbers are increasing, with more carcasses requiring management each year.

2. Objectives

2.1 Review existing approaches to the management of whale carcasses across different land managers.

2.2 Investigate the potential risks of whale carcasses attracting sharks and ensure they are addressed in the development of any new procedures, including through consideration of research findings on the impact of carcass leachates.

2.3 Recommend potential new and consistent procedures across different agencies to ensure whale carcasses are dealt with promptly, safely and efficiently in the interest of minimising impacts on the people and environment of New South Wales.

2.4 Identify the operational arrangements required to implement whale carcass management efficiently, effectively and consistently along the entirety of the NSW coast and across different land managers.

2.5 Recommend potential new protocols for community engagement when making management decisions, if appropriate.

3. The review will be conducted by the Chief Executive, OEH

3.1 The review will be conducted by the Chief Executive of the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and involve consultation with relevant agencies and stakeholders including the Marine Estate Management Authority, Department of Primary Industries, Local Government NSW, Department of Forests and Lands, Aboriginal owners, and community and other user groups.

3.2 An interim report will be provided to the Minister for the Environment by 10 November 2017, with a final report to be provided by 8 December 2017.

Page last updated: 10 September 2018