A rescue operation to save a blue whale trapped in a fishing net off the coast of Southern California was halted Friday due to darkness and rough seas but officials hoped to resume in the morning.
The crews spent hours at sea off the coast of Palos Verdes looking for a blue whale — the largest animal on Earth — tangled in a line, miles out to sea.
Rescuers docked after dark at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro on Friday, "exhausted and ready to deal with it tomorrow if it shows up again," said Peter Wallerstein, the director of the Marine Animal Rescue project in Los Angeles County.
A whale-watching boat was the first to spot the troubled whale around 1 p.m., waiting for hours until help arrived.
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"The whale had two to three hundred feet of line, at least, wrapped around it somewhere with buoys floating at the very end of the line, trailing behind the whale," said Joshua Meza-Fidalgo, of Harbor Breeze Cruises.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called on Wallerstein to save his first blue whale, he said; he normally rescues sea lions.
"Well, we would love to have cut it all off and then freed the whale, but sometimes things are impossible," Wallerstein said.
It was dangerous for Wallerstein and another rescue specialist, who were working out of a small Zodiac boat and at the mercy of a giant whale and rough seas.
"It could die," he said. "That's why we were pressured to try and help it, but it's got a long way to go yet and with the buoy on it, it will be easy to spot."
Rescuers planned to resume their efforts on Saturday.