Boaters' help sought in search for blue whale tangled in net off Southern California coast

PALOS VERDES, Calif. -- Federal marine officials searching for a blue whale entangled in hundreds of feet of fishing line hope boaters and pilots out on the water and air this Labor Day weekend will spot it and call the U.S. Coast Guard.

The 75-foot whale was last seen Friday off the coast of Palos Verdes around 1 p.m.

The whale was towing a 200-foot line with an attached buoy that may be from a crab pot, said Peter Wallerstein, president of the nonprofit group Marine Animal Rescue.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Coast Guard rescue crews launched their search at daybreak Saturday, but the whale was nowhere to be found. Crews have specially designed knives and tools to cut that netting away and free the mammal.

Wallerstein said that while rescuers have untangled smaller gray whales caught in fishing nets, it was the first time anyone in California has seen an entangled blue whale and rescuers want to proceed cautiously.

"We haven't had experience with such a large animal," he said. "One flip of the tail could kill you and knock your boat out."

Captain Dan Salas with Harbor Breeze Cruises said he believes the whale is located somewhere between Point Fermin and Catalina.

Rescuers are asking the boating community to report any sightings of the whale to (877) SOS-WHALE.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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