The whale, entangled in crab or fishing lines, was spotted about 3:30 p.m. ET Monday, swimming off the coast of Dana Point in southern California, officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told CNN affiliate KABC.
"As of last night, attempts to disentangle the 80-foot long blue whale were unsuccessful," Michael Milstein, spokesman for NOAA Fisheries, said Tuesday in a statement. "They placed a tracking device on the whale for part of the day but decided to take it off later in the day.
"Today, NOAA will try to locate the whale and help disentangle it from the fishing ropes. They've warned people in the water to keep an eye out for the whale."
NOAA doesn't know the whale's age or gender, he said.
The whale is seen in aerial video surfacing and diving below the water, as a whale rescue safari crew encircles the giant mammal.
It appeared to be dragging around 200 feet (61 meters) of line and several buoys from its tail, a viewer from a nearby boat said
Milstein told CNN affiliate KTLA
it's unusual for blue whales to become tangled in fishing nets because they usually stay far offshore.
This whale is three or four miles off the coast of Orange County, he told KTLA.
Blue whales can usually break out of ropes and nets because of their size and power, Milstein said Tuesday. Entangled humpback and gray whales are more commonly found, NOAA said.
However, this would be the second reported incident of a blue whale entanglement off the U.S. West Coast in two years. Last fall, a blue whale was also entangled in fishing gear.
In 2015, NOAA Fisheries
identified 22 other cases of whales trapped in fishing gear off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California. There were 39 other incidents in 2015 in which NOAA couldn't identify what caused the entanglement.
"NOAA has seen more entanglements in the last few years perhaps because the waters off the west coast have been warmer than usual," Milstein said. "They've seen species in places they've never encountered but have no real evidence for what is causing this."
Though animals entangled in gear for long periods of time experience distress, they are still capable of traveling great distances, according to NOAA.
There are 10,000 to 25,000 blue whales in the world, according to The World Wildlife Fund
. These endangered species are considered the largest and loudest animals on Earth
, with natural habitats off the coast of California, Chile and the Coral Triangle near Indonesia.
NOAA Fisheries and the Orange County Sheriff's Department Harbor Patrol are helping in the rescue efforts.