The juvenile whale hasn't been seen since a rescue attempt last week loosened some the ropes around the whale but not enough to free the animal completely from its entanglements.
"The animal is definitely significantly entangled with a significant amount of rope and weight. The lines are unfortunately deep in the flesh on the dorsal side," said Paul Cottrell, marine mammal coordinator for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Researcher Jim Darling first spotted the distressed whale and crews were out on the waters hours later. When rescue crews got to the whale, they saw that the rope had dug deep into the whale's flesh and had cut into the whale's pectoral fin.
Crews spent two hours trying to free the whale from the mass entanglement of ropes. They discovered the whale's underside was also completely entangled with rope and weights, possibly from fishing gear.
"We tied to the animal and tried to cut the wraps but as it was getting later and darker, we had to cut loose from the grapple we had," said Cottrell Monday.
The whale may have gotten entangled anywhere from Mexico to Hawaii and while it's possible that loosening the ropes may lead to the whale freeing itself from the entanglements, Cottrell said it's likely still in distress.
"We have to remain positive. It's amazing how resilient these animals are and we're hoping the animal is still alive and sighted."
Anyone who has spotted the whale is asked to call the marine mammal hotline at 1-800-465-4336.