Peter Wallerstein first coordinated international whale protection campaigns in the icy and treacherous waters of the Bering Sea and North Atlantic Ocean. Since that time, he has facilitated over 6,500 rescues of marine animals, including a host of endangered species from Leatherback Turtles to Guadalupe fur seals. Peter has had persistent creativity in devising hands-on safe and effective techniques to rescue these animals, and his quick on-site response time in emergency situations overcame the objections of county and city officials. In 1985, Peter founded the Whale Rescue Team to establish a local skilled response capability for whales in Southern California. As director of the organization, Peter established a live 24-hour toll-free hotline for reporting marine animals trapped or in distress. Peter’s passion for rescuing whales naturally carried over to all marine wildlife that were sick or injured. In 2007, Whale Rescue Team was renamed Marine Animal Rescue to better reflect his organization’s efforts. In this episode, Peter tells us about his first marine rescue, how often he gets a call, the things he has seen, what he has learned and so much more! For more information, you can visit the Marine Animal Rescue, http://www.marspecialists.org/
Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you to amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is proudly sponsored by Joubert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relate Transport. Now on with our show today, we’re speaking with Peter Waller Stein Peter first coordinated International will protection campaigns and the icy and treacherous waters of the Bering Sea and North Atlantic Ocean. Since that time, he’s facilitated over 6500 rescues of marine animals, including a host of endangered species from leatherback turtles to Guadalupe First seals. Peters had persistent creativity in devising hands on safe and effective techniques to rescue these animals, and his quick on site response time in emergency situations overcame the objectives of city and county officials. In 1985 Peter founder the whale rescue team to establish a local skilled response capability for whales in Southern California. As the director of the organization, Peter established a live, 24 hour toll free hotline for reporting marine animals trapped or in distress. Peter’s passion for rescuing whales came naturally, and it evolved into rescuing all marine whale life that were sick or injured. So in 2007 Whale Rescue Team was renamed the Marine Animal Rescue. To better reflect his organization’s efforts. He now works side by side with Los Angeles County lifeguards with When we Conducts exercises, he works with Redondo Beach Harbor Patrol and L A City Life Guards as well as other new words agencies with his mission center demeanor, Peters one. The appreciation and respect of the Los Angeles County lifeguards as well as the hearts of the community. Hey, Peter, welcome to the program. Thank you. Here. Yeah, so tell us a little bit about you and how you got into this. You’ve got a really interesting background. Well, I started many years ago. Started in 1985 with Marine rescues. I was director Sea Shepherd side for years, Corden helping to coordinate campaigns in the North Atlantic in the North Pacific. And then I was home watching a TV programme where whales were drowning in fishing nets and I thought, Well, that must be in the North Pacific, where I already waas and There’s lots. Drift meant share source. I was shocked, but I was shocked because it was off the palace. Birdies and point Dume write my own backyard, right, Nellie County on and I looked into it more. And there wasn’t a coordinated effort to actually help the whales once it got caught there. Mostly drowned or the we take off the net on them if they would able to break free. So I thought, and we got to be better in my own backyard. So I abandoned Sea Shepherd and started Ah, Whale Rescue Team I. I started where was couldn’t under Sea Shepherd siding. And then, a couple of years later, I I I left Sea Shepherd focused on my local issues, my own backyard. I thought, you know, if I can’t deal with the problems here, I had no no reason going across planet trying to coordinate efforts to protect marine mammals if it can’t do in my own backyard. So when my first rescues was pretty amazing, I got a call. I first of all, I bought a boat and got some knives and was ready to go out and try to rescue well and say the truth. I didn’t know the different Penis seal and Sea Lion back. So, you know, I really didn’t know. But I was really safe. I knew what to do. So I got a call about a well off a palace parities. So I got my boat and went out there, and we were shocked. There was two whales, the mother and the baby both wrapped up in gill net, both drowning. So I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it. Just had to respond. So we we cut the mother out out of the net, which is really and choose free, but took us about 1/2 hour to cut her out. But the baby had most in that rapture on sales. Every time it came a prayer to be pulled back down. By the way, net, you couldn’t really breathe. Couldn’t get your breath. So, you know, we really worried about what the mother is going to do with our boat. Their own two species of Wales that ever attacked their tacky A whalers and this sperm whale and a California Guay with gray. Well, and this was a California gray. Well, so we’re kind of nervous or what she was getting do. She swam onto the other cyber boat and job underneath their boat. So I told him about a hold. I she might come up and flip it so, you know, I don’t know. Came up on the other side where Baby Waas and lifted her baby out of the water. And she did that six times. And every time she did, we did a little more cunning and she did it again. We did a little more cunning. She did it again, more cutting until the whale was free and they both will melt free. And that was my first instance of rescuing any animal, you know, you know, in the Gill man. And I said, Well, maybe this is what I should be doing. So I looked it more and found out that it wasn’t any better locally with seals and sea lions or dolphins either. Animal trolling parking enforcement officers were in charge of respond to marine mammals in L. A county. It was really bad. They were getting hurt. They weren’t rescuing, and almost that it should be rescued. So I started rescuing marine mammals that need to help mostly with Gil. It’s on their neck. And that’s how I started. Wow. So you covered a lot there. I’m curious. Have you always been into marine life? And have you always lived on the coast? No, I’m from Connecticut. Okay. I traveled around and sailed to the Western niece in South America for a couple years and then got tired of that. Went to live on a top of a mountain in New Hampshire and a little lagers cabin for a couple of years and tryingto trying to go what I should be doing with my life. I wanted to something special, one on, Do something. It wasn’t really normal. Didn’t want to hold a steady job. You know, I want to do something different. So I decided to come out to California. So I got my little Landcruiser and drove all to California and the Met Paul Watson, who was under Steve Shepherd. I had a lot of respect for him and you. He was my inspiration with getting direct action, getting involved with direct shot direct action. And, uh, that’s how I started marine mammal rescue. I wasn’t in the marine mammals. Like I said, I didn’t know the difference between the seal in this line and I first started. I kind of faked it a long way and got a lot of resistance from the federal government by doing so because you had to be authorized and I wasn’t off rise. So I found a way to respond where I didn’t need federal authorization. I went to each individual city, okay, from and Beach were down the beach, Venice Beach, Marina del Rey. And they’re all different jurisdictions. So I went to every local jurisdiction, went to the city Council and solicit. I’ll do these dresses for a dollar a year and provide a $1,000,000 insurance policy which will relieve you from Manu, likely at all. And they went for it. And that’s how I start breeding animal rescue. Good for you. That’s that’s called being persistent and finding a way to make this happen. So So put this in perspective for people. I mean, you know, I think about marine Animal Rescue and I don’t have an idea. How many times are you getting called? What’s the span of your coverage? What types of things do you see? Oh, I see it all. I’ve seen it. All of the past 34 years I’ve been doing rescue. So I’ve seen everything from whales and tail. Weeks will still get wells and tangled in fishing line and and, uh, rope gear from lobster or crab pots getting wrapped around the chaos. So we have to go out. Respond now. I’m federally authorized for that. The federal government has come around and they find the authorize me for all of the marine mammal rescues and is and they take me under their wing that they’re really good now. Um, but I’ve seen it all. Mostly I do about 3 to 500 rescues a year. Mostly sea lions from Guillain see lines packing straps around their neck to seal pops with El Nino to harbor seals to first heels and different kinds of animals like that. Do you see? Pursue? But we I’ve seen I’ve seen it all. I have a lot of stories, and it’s just amazing what I’ve seen. Yeah. Now do most of these animals are they getting cut? I heard you say gil nuts a couple of times. And also packing straps is this is this garbage that’s coming off of boats or How How is this happening? Well, in 19 I think it was 92. Voters banned Gil Nus from the state water from state of California. But from three miles out there, still in. Let’s so there’s took a carton in future nets. And when the sea lion gets caught in it, that could bite their way out. If they don’t drown, they fight their way out. But they still have the net remaining around their neck, which embeds into their flesh and eventually kill him because the nets really strong and just keeping bending, still keep cutting into the net. So, you know, I get a lot of a lot of Guilmet rescues. Leave me too. OK, yeah. So So tell us a little bit about your team. I know you’re You started out kind of his one man show, right? But you’ve kind of grown. I did 25 years by myself. I never missed a call. Israel proud of that. Um, but then I started hiring people. I have a couple of people that I hired 11 guy training right now. Another guys that made our to cut doing some federal research for the feds for Noah. He should be back really soon because we’re going to start getting busy here soon. Starting in January through June. I do 80% of the rescues, then, um, what’s serious? And what’s the reason for that? Got a lot of birthing birth things in the February. The elephant seals air born in January. So they’re Ween in less than 30 days, and it takes them all of the figure out. Mom sat coming back and feeding them, so get real skinny. So we get a lot of pops elephants. Why do about 80 elephant seals a year? And we get a lot of pops here in L. A county? Ah, And then get the first seals that are born and and see lines that are born in June. So we have a lot of birth things, and one thing we do have, which is really heartbreaking, is demonic ass. The poisoning, The book acid poisoning is a natural blooming toxic algae, but it’s fed by pollution. So wherever there’s outflows from the land, we have a lot of demonic acid blooming out of controllable, and it causes seizures to pregnancy lions, who a lot of a lot of the fish during that time of year. So it’s really bad cause seizures, convulsions may have really, really truths and really bad. Oh, yeah, that’s got to be hard. I mean, on some of these rescues for you, it’s got to be pretty heartbreaking. It’s really hard, but, you know, that’s my motivation, because man causes most of these problems with, especially with the gill man. Star packing strives for people just throw on the ground and they all all end up in the ocean. The sea lions will swim into him and get the package dropped, caught around the neck and said, Well, it’ll kill him if we don’t rescue him. So that’s my motivation. Is trying to rescue those animals. Yeah, now, you know, you talked a lot about sea lions and pups, and it seems like your 1st 1 was a whale. What is there one particular rescue that stands out to? I have a lot that stand out to me out. I’ve done so many, but there there’s quite a few. But one particular was about a £400 male sea lion. He was a big sea lion that had packing strap in bed in his neck, and I tried to get him for six months. But he was with about a dozen of their see lines on the dock, and Marina del Rey, sir could never get close. Every time we got close it spooked. Born see line, they’ll jump off. Finally, one day I was in my boat and I saw that sea lion live living on a dive step on a boat. And while this might be a good chance, so I got a floating net inside of about five foot PVC frame with the net attached to it. So I get it in the water and swimming up to the dye step. And I had just hate the C line on the back end to wake him up because he was still sleeping and you got up and barred to me and go running in the net and luckily called Ah, hard patrol there and they helped me get it on their boat. And we abroad Teoh the launch ramp. Marine Garay. It is really satisfying to get that animal after such a struggle to get it. And knowing that men cause that problem and was going to die eventually was really satisfying to get that animal. How do you get most of your calls? Is it? You just get random calls from the public. Is it from lifeguards? I get lifeguards really important. Harbour trolls, Porton Ah, animal control And a lot of citizens want first thing I did when I first started in 1985 I started hotline because when I first got first found out about these rescues, I would be no to call. Number wasn’t out there if anybody calls. So I got delayed. I got switched in one call to another call and nobody knew what to do. So I started 808 139. Well, for people call a report, these problems. And now I have no problem getting calls about animals in trouble. A lot of people know the number like ours. Harper Troll, police officers and the general public know to call. That’s really cool. So now walk us through. What happened? So you get a call, you get dispatched out there. Depending on the situation, you’re you’re freeing the animal from a net dura strap. What happens after that? I mean, do you just release them back or they okay to go back in the ocean. No, they’re not. Generally, I have to bring him to the rehab center on seeing Pedro. And most these animals need antibiotics and they need that wound can be healed before they could be released. So mostly animals. I rescue maybe one or two. I’ve been able to cut free and just let go immediately, but mostly animals have to rescue. And then I have a gear in my truck to get it. I have a cage. It wheels down into the ground and reassigned in the sand with sand wheels on. It could get the animal in that and then bring it to the rehab center about 1/2 hour away. So I have to transform all the same P Joe where they’re cared for. Okay, well, that’s that’s good to know that certainly they’re getting rehabilitation. Obviously, after you free them from their from their situation, So would have been what are some of the challenges, I guess that you face I mean, what are the lessons you’ve been doing this for so long? What are some of the things that you’ve learned? We’ll just have to be persistent, and I can’t be lazy, and I can’t. If I get a call it two in the morning. I can’t say, Well, I’ll get there soon as the sun comes up because a lot of the sea lines, Aaron roads or in people’s yards and people, people mess with them. If they don’t know they’re going to get injured, they’re going to hurt the animal or they’re going to get it real bad. So I have to get up on respond to him. So that’s one of the hardest lessons to get up and respond every time I get a call. Yeah, so that’s really difficult. And just to face the challenges that we face the location Some of the locations on Judy’s on rock rock jetties, which are really difficult to catch an animal other on the beach or on boats there on die accepts of boats are actually on in the cockpit of boats. I got I got one animal that came in on a ah ah shrimp oh about three weeks ago and wouldn’t get off the shrimp boat. And these guys had probably unknown for treating animals bad in their in their industry. But this guy, this captain was really respective of the animal, and I was surprised he called, but he wanted help. So I went down and met him. I told him we’ll bring it in, bring ing in if you’d still under on your boat. When you come in the dock, I’ll rescue it. And C Line was sleeping on the dollar on his on the deck, and I went in and hope the animal and got him off the boat has really satisfying because generally this squid fishermen aren’t really real quick to help called. Um, so that was really important me that he made that call and he called the right people and we were able to help him. Yeah, it sounds like a very specialized skill that you’ve done. So I guess I’m thinking, you know, for people that are listening this saying, Hey, I want to do that, I want to get involved. Where would you recommend that they start? Well, you can get a lot of experience at a rehab center yet, and we should get to know about the animals there and how Quicken allowed at Julie are and how how strongly could buy. And so you get to know that gainers and and and some of that about see lines and seals. But, you know, generally I don’t use volunteers because rescue there so specialized. I I hire people that have experience with marine mammals and that that’s a good way to start. Then I had to train them Teoh to do the rescue, which is which is difficult, because I have. I have groups on the end of ah, Big eight foot Poles that we have the every animal we have to put over their head. So if you have a 203 104 105 £100 animal on the beach, you have to confront that animal face a phase with your hoop in your net and then try to get that hoop over 10 sometimes will fight. You sometimes grab the hoop and try to pull out of your arms. So it’s really challenging. Yeah, it sounds like something that would take quite a bit of training and, you know, skills. Yeah, does yet beats, um, kind of athlete. T arrested these animals. Yeah, I’m sure you do. You’ve got to be in good physical shape. And like you said, you’re getting calls at all hours of the morning. Yeah, Yeah, I turned. I’ll be 60. Eyes turned 65 this year. So, you know, I finally realized that I can’t do this for much longer by myself. That’s why I hired people. As so I’m trying to build be a foundation upward could run without me. Pretty much, yes. So what is the biggest need that you have is a foundation to continue the good work that you’re doing Well, we need money. I don’t get any any grant money. Really? From the from the government. I charge it government a dollar a year. He’s dressed you. So I had to raise all the money for the rescues. So that’s most what we had by three trucks. And I had to buy a boat for whale rescues. So we have expenses that need upkeep and and we had to change gear all the time. That cages that I have on the trucks are 2 to $3000 apiece, made by a lifeguard who’s there? Well, the friend of mine, So I have good connections for gets the stuff built, but we need money to pay for it and pay for the expensive getting out there and do me? Sure. So if people want to donate your cause, Peter, how did they do it? They could go to the website, um, and donate that Maher specialist out. Or or, you know, they could call us and they could send in a check Or, you know, they could. There’s various ways they go. OK, well, Peter, this is amazing work that you’re doing. It’s just it’s so interesting to me to hear some of these stories. Is there anything else you want to share with our listeners before we wrap it up? Well, if they see a seal or sea line on beach, don’t don’t get near it. Give us some space. You have to be 100 yards away legally by the federal government to be Ah, Teoh. Get close to an animal, so keep your distance. You don’t want a chastened by animal back in the water that sick or injured, because then we lose their chance to get it. So if they see it, just keep your distance and call call the authorities called lifeguards or call us or, you know, call anybody responds and then we’ll take care from there. Yeah, And remind people what? Your phone numbers to call 839 whale. Great. Well, Peter, thank you so much for coming on the program, insuring with us. And we appreciate everything you’re doing. Oh, my, It’s my pleasure. Thank you. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. 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