The idea was born in 2006, at a garage sale. Peggy Stap and Mary Whitney – who both studied whales in Hawaii and who later became friends after meeting in Monterey – were holding a fundraiser for their respective marine nonprofits when Stap got a call about an entangled whale.
That moment brought a surprising realization: Despite Monterey Bay being among the most protected marine environments on the planet, there was no system in place to free whales entangled in fishing gear.
Stap and Whitney set out to change that. Under the umbrella of Stap’s nonprofit Marine Life Studies, the two founded the Whale Entanglement Team, and in the nearly 10 years since, they have built a team of volunteers equipped to free entangled whales around the clock whenever necessary
Working on a shoestring budget and with an all-volunteer staff, their mission has been beset with challenges. When Stap gets a call about an entangled whale, she needs the boat that spots the whale to remain onsite. If it doesn’t, finding the whale is near impossible.
"It’s like a moving needle in a moving haystack," Stap says.