Senator Jackson Introduces Legislation to Help Entangled Whales

March 24, 2017

SACRAMENTO –  State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) has introduced a bill to support emergency response teams that rescue whales, sea turtles and other marine mammals that have become entangled in fishing gear or stranded on the coast.

Senate Bill 290 would create an emergency grant program for authorized organizations that respond to stranded marine mammals and to marine wildlife that have been entangled in fishing and other gear. Last year, 71 whales were reported entangled along the California coast. A record 6,000 stranded sea lions, harbor seals, elephant seals and other mammals were rescued off the California coast in 2015 and 2016. The Pacific leatherback sea turtle is the California state marine reptile, and is also listed as critically endangered. In 2016, two sea turtles were reported entangled and only one of entangled turtles was released alive.

Entangled whales can experience life-threatening dehydration, starvation, and drowning. Just yesterday, there were reports of an entangled gray whale sighted off the coast of Santa Barbara. 

“Whales are an important part of California’s heritage and people from around the world travel to see these magnificent leviathans on whale-watching tours along our coast,” said Jackson. “The whale entanglement issue has increasingly caused concern over the past three years and it is time we act to support the volunteer network that dedicates their personal funds and time to protect each animal and often risks their lives to do so. The fishing industry, often the first to report the entanglement, is a vital partner in these response efforts. ”

The only hope of rescue that whales have from entanglement are trained California whale rescue volunteers who are permitted to respond through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Large Whale Disentanglement Network. Often, fishermen and whale-watching boats are the first to spot and report such entanglements.

Prompt reporting to the NOAA Fisheries hotline, 1-877-SOS-WHALE (1-877-767-9425) is recommended as the best way to assist an entangled whale.

In 2016, to help fund this volunteer network, Governor Jerry Brown approved $100,000 in reimbursement funds to be administered through the Wildlife Health Center at the University of California at Davis.

The bill will be heard April 25 in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.