Whale rescue abandoned due to rough conditions

A young whale that was fighting to break free from fishing line is missing after authorities decided the waters were too treacherous to conduct an immediate rescue Tuesday.

A young whale, less than 50 feet in length and possibly a calf, was seen about 200 yards offshore from Beach Boulevard in Pacifica about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, authorities said. The whale was towing about 10 feet of netting most likely attached to a crab pot or lobster trap and could not break free, said Joe Cordaro, wildlife biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Firefighters responded early Tuesday morning but the waters were too treacherous to send out a rescue boat, said Marine Mammal Center spokeswoman Mieke Eerkens. Instead, mammal center officials climbed aboard a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and searched for the whale several hours later but were unable to find it, Cordaro said.

As a result, rescuers have no idea where the whale is, or what condition it is in, Cordaro said. They cannot continue searching unless the whale is sighted again, he said.

“If it’s moving fast, chances are it’s in good shape now,” Cordaro said. “Six months from now, who knows.”

Jay Nishida, a regular fisherman at the beach’s pier, said the whale had been in the area for two days before it became tangled Tuesday and that it was very close to the beach before struggling to swim away Tuesday morning.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

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