Ocean Hero Finalists: Peter Wallerstein - Oceana USA
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May 16, 2011

Ocean Hero Finalists: Peter Wallerstein

This is the fourth in a series of posts about this year’s Ocean Hero finalists.

For more than two decades, Peter Wallerstein has been rescuing marine animals on the coast of California.

In 1985 he founded the Whale Rescue Team, which is now part of Marine Animal Rescue (MAR), a project of Friends of Animals. Peter started a 24-hour hotline for citizens to report stranded or injured marine mammals, and he has personally rescued more than 4,000 marine mammals and birds in Southern California, from stranded dolphins to whales tangled in gillnets.

Thanks to Peter’s persistence, Los Angeles County now has the only professional marine mammal rescue team in the U.S. that conducts hundreds of rescues each year, working 24/7 if needed. In April he conducted 86 marine mammal rescues, 120 for the year so far.

Now Peter is working to address the lack of adequate care facilities for marine mammals. After a decade of work, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has authorized MAR to design, construct and operate a second marine mammal care facility in Los Angeles County.

Peter says that the need for another facility became apparent in the 1980s, when many starving sea lion pups were left on the beach to die. And in 2002, sea lions suffering from domoic acid poisoning filled to capacity LA County’s single marine mammal care center.

Peter wrote via e-mail, “This has been my life for the past couple of decades. I have always shied away from personal recognition, but with the enormous task at hand, if I am fortunate enough to receive this honor, I’m hoping that it would bring attention to the work ahead us and help my vision become a reality.”

Have you voted yet? Check out the other finalists, cast your vote and spread the word! And stay tuned for more spotlighted finalists in the coming days.

Special thanks to the sponsors of the Ocean Heroes Award for making all of this possible: Nautica, Revo and For Cod & Country, the new book by chef and National Geographic fellow Barton Seaver.