ENTANGLED in ropes and pulling a metal drum, this whale was spotted in trouble and dangerously close to a beach north of Woolgoolga on Sunday.
The sighting prompted a major search and rescue mission.
Surf lifesaving club members alerted Marine Rescue Woolgoolga which responded, shepherding the struggling animal along the coastline.
As marine park authorities responded from Coffs Harbour, the marine rescue unit tried to track the whale and slow it down to allow a rescue to be performed.
"Woolgoolga's boat was launched from the beach just before 9am and the whale was sighted off Arrawarra not long after," Marine Rescue's Cherrill Powell said.
"The whale not only had three lifebuoys slowing it down, but it also had a large drum tangled in the netting.
"The whale was moving quite slowly north, so Woolgoolga's boat held off and kept abreast of the whale's movements."
Marine Park authorities reached the animal north of Red Rock later that afternoon but in fading light could not cut the whale free, given the difficult task of timing efforts to free the animal with its breaches.
Attempts have continued to be made to locate the whale this week.
It is not known if the animal was a young adult humpback that was spotted tangled in ropes and distressed off Crescent Head last month.
Anyone who spots the animal should call their local National Parks and Wildlife office.
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