A blue whale entangled in a fishing line was spotted off the coast of southern California on Friday and rescue workers were determining how to free the massive mammal, officials said.
The whale was first seen in the afternoon by a cruise ship 5 miles (8 km) off the coast of the upscale seaside community of Rancho Palos Verdes, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) spokesman Jim Milbury.
Milbury said a crew authorized by NOAA to conduct marine animal rescues was on scene and assessing whether they could cut the line to free the endangered animal.
He said towing the line could potentially exhaust the whale or cut into its skin, adding, “It’s certainly not doing it any good, that’s for sure.”
Blue whales, the largest animals on Earth, can grow to reach nearly 100 feet (30 meters) in length and weigh 190 tons (172 tonnes). They were once driven to near extinction by whaling.
Authorities have urged whale watchers and others to stay away from the area, Milbury said.
Aerial footage broadcast by local television news outlet KABC showed the thick line trailing dozens of feet off the whale’s tail with what appeared to be a buoy attached to the end.
Dan Salas, a captain for Harbor Breezes Cruises, told the Los Angeles Times that one of the firm’s boats first saw the whale on an whale-watching trip.
“Nothing was unusual until the captain got close and he immediately noticed that the whale was in distress,” Salas told the newspaper.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
Watch a report on efforts to help the whale, as aired on KCBS-TV, below.