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Australia’s three groups of marine mammals — cetaceans, pinnipeds and sirenians — are discussed in relation to historic exploitation, legislative protection, present impacts and potential threats. Today, all marine animals are protected to varying degrees in Commonwealth waters. However, the area in which the protection applies differs for each group. Permit and licence requirements for scientific research and ANPWS involvement in marine mammal research are outlined. Current legislative protection is directed at preventing the direct killing and capture of marine mammals but further protective measures may be required. The value of research and public awareness is emphasized as an aid to influencing future conservation and management decisions.

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