Boat captains in the Dana Point area were being asked to be on the lookout for an entangled gray whale that appears to have a metal frame, possibly a crab trap, around its head.
The whale was spotted about 3:30 p.m. Saturday about two miles south of Dana Point Harbor by Capt. Frank Brennan of Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching, The Orange County Register reported. Brennan, who was on a whale-watching trip at the time, saw the animal as he neared San Juan Rock, and it was heading north.
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He alerted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's marine mammal stranding network coordinator, Justin Viezbicke, along with Capt. Dave Anderson, of Capt. Dave's Dolphin Safari, who leads Orange County's whale disentanglement team and has been involved in dozens of rescues over the years.
Anderson again spotted the whale just outside Newport Beach Harbor at sunset but did not deploy his tracking buoy because of the unusual way the whale's head was caught in the trap. Viezbicke said the type of gear entangling the whale was something he has not seen before.
Rodger Healy, a Capistrano Beach lobster fisherman, said photos of the wire frame looked industrial.
"It's too big to be trap gear," he said, adding, "It looks like it could be a rack to suspend oysters or mussels."
On Sunday morning boat captains continued to look for the entangled whale in Los Angeles County. Dense fog made the search more difficult, Viezbicke said.
But efforts to find it will continue. Boat captains who work along Northern California have been notified, he said.
On Monday, officials with NOAA said the whale was likely north of waters off Los Angeles County.
People who are out on the water and see a whale in distress were urged to call (877) SOS-WHALE, and to take pictures if possible.