SA souvenir whale grave-diggers arrested – is it illegal in NSW?


Two persons have been arrested for removing teeth from whale carcasses on a South Australian beach.


The two carcasses formed part of a pod of dead sperm whales which was found washed up on Ardrossan Beach on the Yorke Peninsula.

The pair was charged under a South Australian law which prohibits such souvenir hunting. It is not immediately clear what law this is.

The position in NSW

It is not clear whether this conduct would be illegal in NSW.

Section 5 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 makes it an offence to commit an act of cruelty on an animal. Section 4 defines “animal” to include a sperm whale. The same section defines “cruelty to animal” to include the mutilation of an animal. While a mechanical interpretation of the Act does not necessarily preclude removing part of an animal from a dead carcass, the objects of the Act make it clear that its purpose is the prevention of cruelty to living animals. As such, it is unlikely that a person would be charged under this Act if they were to remove the teeth from a beached whale.

Getting closer is the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. Section 118B makes it an offence to have in your possession or control part of an animal which is a threatened species or endangered population. Section 5 refers the definition of “threatened species” and “endangered population” to the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, however under Sch 1 of that Act, the sperm whale is not a threatened species or endangered population.

A whale is a mammal and therefore not a “fish” as defined by s 5 of the Fisheries Management Act 1994, requiring protection under the same Act. It is probably not an offence to interfere with a dead fish anyway.

Absent a more thorough research, it does not appear that the acts for which the two persons in South Australia were arrested constitutes an offence in NSW.

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Image credit: Steve Ruddock and ABC News

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