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Is it legal to hunt protected species such as marine turtles and dugongs?

Article ID: 547
Last updated: 27 Mar, 2013
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Marine turtles and dugongs are protected under the Australian Government's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (EPBC Act), which lists them as marine and migratory species, and also by various state and Northern Territory legislation. Six species of marine turtle are protected by the EPBC Act - the leatherback, loggerhead and olive ridley turtle are each listed as endangered (which means that these species may become extinct if the threats to their survival continue), whilst the green, hawksbill and flatback turtle are each listed as vulnerable (which means that they may become endangered if threats to their survival continue). Dugongs are also classified as vulnerable to extinction under the 2009 World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, which indicates that they face a high-risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future.

Despite being protected, dugongs and marine turtles can be legally hunted by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people under section 211 of the Native Title Act 1993, which operates to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples with a native title right to hunt, gather, collect and fish or conduct a cultural or spiritual activity. The traditional or subsistence hunting of dugongs and turtles plays an important social and cultural role for coastal aborigines in many parts of northern Australia and the meat provides a source of protein for these communities.

The RSPCA believes that where animals are legitimately hunted for subsistence, this must be conducted humanely and with regard for the conservation status of the species involved.


This website provides general information which must not be relied upon or regarded as a substitute for specific professional advice, including veterinary advice. We make no warranties that the website is accurate or suitable for a person’s unique circumstances and provide the website on the basis that all persons accessing the website responsibly assess the relevance and accuracy of its content.
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Also read
document RSPCA Policy E04 Utilisation of wild animals
document Which animals can be hunted for sport or recreation?
document Are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander hunters exempt from animal cruelty laws?
document Can turtles and dugongs be killed humanely?

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