YARMOUTHPORT, Mass., Sept. 20, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Actress and activist Amber Valletta joins the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org) at the BLUE Ocean Film Festival in Monterey, California, September 26 – 28 to raise awareness of entangled whales in California.
"It is upsetting to imagine such a magnificent creature with ropes and other marine debris wrapped around its body," said Ms. Valletta, an IFAW Honorary Board member. "It can cause life-threatening injuries to whales and can often be dangerous for their rescuers as well."
Boaters and other ocean users are urged to call the toll free entangled whale hotline, 1- 877-SOS-WHALe, to report the exact location of an entangled whale. The information is immediately routed to the California Whale Entanglement Team (W.E.T.) – an organized crew of local and regional marine mammal professionals and volunteers that have received special training to respond to large whale entanglements along the state's coastline.
"Whale entanglement is considered one of the leading threats for all large whale species," said Patrick Ramage, IFAW Whale Program Director. "And it places the animal at risk of drowning, starvation or infection. Quickly summoning expert help provides the best opportunity for the entrapped whale's survival."
Under the jurisdiction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), W.E.T.'s highly-skilled teams of marine biologists, veterinarians, mariners, and other volunteers use specialized equipment, including satellite radio buoys when appropriate, in their attempts to free the entangled mammals.
To reinforce W.E.T.'s response to whale entanglements, IFAW has equipped the group with a full supply of disentanglement tools, along with a portable trailer – W.E.T. on Wheels – to transport the gear needed to rescue entangled whales in crises. NOAA, Monterey-based Marine Life Studies and the Fluke Foundation have also contributed to W.E.T.'s efforts.
Most of the large whale species that inhabit the waters off the California coast are listed as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The loss of only a few animals can have an impact on certain whale populations making it difficult for the species to recover.
"California's whales – and all of the world's whales - should be protected," added Ms. Valletta. "IFAW works globally to address the increasing entanglements and other urgent threats whales face. I'm proud to join them in this important work."
In the three years that the whale hotline has been active, 38 entangled whales were reported. Twenty whales were reported as entangled off the central California counties of Mendocino, Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco and Monterey.
Complimentary stickers and other items promoting the whale entanglement hotline will be available at the IFAW booth at the BLUE Ocean Film Festival at the Portola Hotel in Monterey, and in retail shops throughout the Monterey Bay Peninsula.
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
California W.E.T. (Whale Entanglement Team) is a group of marine mammal professionals and volunteers under the direction of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Office of Protected Resources and under the authority of the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program. W.E.T. is tasked with responding to whales entangled in fishing gear and marine debris.
SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare