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Despite being protected, whales, dolphins and other marine species still face various threats, including water and noise pollution, habitat degradation, collision with ships, entanglements and climate change.

For a very long time, whales were considered to be an exploitable resource. Historically, communities all around the world killed whales, particularly the larger ones, to obtain products such as oil, meat and baleen. In Australia, the whaling industry ended in 1978, and since then, Australia has become a world leader in the protection and conservation of whales, with the government taking the following initiatives:

Establishment of The Australian Whale Sanctuary

This includes all Commonwealth waters from the three nautical mile state waters limit out to the boundary of the Exclusive Economic Zone. Within this sanctuary, it is an offence to kill, injure or interfere with a cetacean. There are severe penalties to those who do not comply with this. All states and territories are responsible for protecting whales and dolphins within their waters.

Recovery plans

Australia currently has five whale species considered to be threatened in its waters and there are recovery plans for each. The plans identify the threats these whales’ species face and establish actions to ensure their ongoing recovery.

The five threatened species are: