Peter Wallerstein, director of the Marine Animal Rescue project in Los Angeles County, has always forged his own path. For 30 years, Peter has been the first responder; the hands-on caretaker of ailing marine animals all over the globe.
From his early adulthood, Peter set out to create a meaningful, positive impact on both the global and local community. Responsible for co-coordinating and executing international whale protection campaigns in the Bering Sea and North Atlantic, Peter changed gears from 20-foot waves in dangerous, icy waters to the perils of directly interacting with Los Angeles’ marine animal population. “Think globally, act locally,” Peter says. He founded the Whale Rescue Team, a non-profit, in 1985. Nothing like this existed at the time and Peter quickly innovated creative solutions to risky rescue situations. His creativity and persistence resulted in the creation of proprietary rescue techniques and equipment that are still used and emulated today. “One of the first things I did was to create a 24-hour, toll-free hotline for citizens to report stranded or injured marine mammals,” Peter says, “People didn’t know who to call. Nowadays, they recognize our rescue truck, they know the logo, and they know the work that we do.”
For decades in Los Angeles County the responsibility for assisting injured or beached mammals was in the hands of local Animal Control or Parking Control Officers. Officers did the best they could, but inadequate training and inappropriate rescue equipment frequently resulted in prolonged suffering and additional injuries of many animals and injuries to the officers.
Since first stepping foot on the beaches of Los Angeles in 1985, Peter’s efforts weren’t met without resistance. Red tape and bureaucrats threatened Peter with fines and jail time, mainly concerned with the liability of attempting to relocate stranded seal and sea lions to a rehabilitation center. Hard work and dedication shined through, and Peter won the adoration and respect of the Los Angeles County lifeguards and other agencies as well as the hearts of the community. One by one, the local beach communities granted Peter primary rescue authority over marine mammals.
Today, the Whale Rescue Team is Marine Animal Rescue, a non-profit animal advocacy organization. MAR specialists are on the beaches of Los Angeles every day, rain or shine, responding to calls from citizens and agencies throughout LA County. Wallerstein has personally conducted over 4,000 marine mammal and bird rescues in Southern California. The stranded or injured animals he’s encountered range from whales entangled in gill netting, sea lions suffering from domoic acid poisoning, stranded dolphins, emaciated sea lions, elephant and harbor seals, to risky rescues performed on jetties and within flood control channels.
Marine Animal Rescue is Peter Wallerstein’s vision, and its mission wholly aligns with the respect for free living beings.