Rescue crews racing to save blue whale tangled off Calif. coast

Blue Whale Trapped
Blue Whale Trapped 01:43

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Rescuers were out on Tuesday hoping to untangle an 80-foot blue whale. Fishing lines and gear are wrapped around the animal just a few miles from shore.

Captain Dave Anderson's crew was the first to spot the whale near Dana Point.

"Every move that whale makes is going to saw into that whale's flukes. It's going to be excruciating pain for that whale," he said.

A blue whale is stuck in fishing line off the coast of California. CBS News

According to Anderson, if the lines aren't cut, the whale can't eat -- and might only have about 30 days to live.

Crews used a knife attached to a 30-foot pole to try and save the whale. They made several attempts before he got agitated and took off.

"We were inches away from it, and I can tell you it was gut-wrenching that we couldn't save it," Anderson told us.

CBS News' Mireya Villarreal holds the knife rescuers tied to a 30-foot pole to try to rescue the blue whale. CBS News

Justin Viezbicke is coordinating the rescue efforts for NOAA Fisheries. Since the blue whale is an endangered species, this has become a critical mission.

"The fact that we even get to work on it is even more rare, and provides a number of challenges for us. It's the first time we are working on this species. We don't have a lot of knowns," Viezbicke said.

Captain Dave Anderson CBS News

Viezbicke said whales trapped in netting is a growing problem. Last year, there were 49 confirmed reports of entangled whales. This year, there are already 40 sightings.

"There are not a lot of blue whales out there, so we can't afford to be losing any of them," said Anderson.

That's why rescue crews aren't giving up until this blue whale is freed.

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    Mireya Villarreal is a CBS News correspondent based in Los Angeles.