An entangled gray whale with a metal frame stuck on its head was spotted near Piedras Blancas this week.
The whale was seen about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday traveling with two other gray whales and heading north for its migration toward Alaska, said Peggy Stap, founder of the Monterey Bay Marine Life Studies and co-founder of its whale entanglement team.
The whale was swimming about about 3.2 mph, Stap said.
Because marine rescuers don’t know what the metal frame is, they haven’t figured out how to safely disentangle the whale, she said.
“Until we fully assess, we can’t really decide what we’re going to do,” she said. “We don’t just go in there and start hacking and cutting things. You could remove something that might come off the whale, but it’s not what’s causing trauma to the animal.”
Volunteers at Point Lobos are searching for the whale, which was estimated to arrive there by 7 p.m. Thursday, but high winds could make it more difficult to spot the animal, she said.
The mammal is then expected to arrive near Point Pinos Lighthouse — and near the Monterey Bay Aquarium — sometime between Thursday and early Friday morning, according to a Facebook post from the organization.
There have been several other sightings of the whale along the Central Coast in the past few days.
Anyone who spots the whale is asked to call 877-767-9425, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s hotline for reporting entangled whales. The public is asked not to approach the whale but is encouraged to take photos or video from afar.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the last name of Monterey Bay Marine Life Studies Founder Peggy Stap.