*UPDATE (7:30 p.m.): The rescuers were able to reach the fin whale at about dusk, but were not able to cut the rope before darkness fell.
By Pete Thomas
An entangled fin whale was the subject of a cooperative rescue operation Friday off Dana Point in Orange County, but rescuers were having trouble staying with the southbound mammal.
The Pacific Marine Mammal Center was leading an effort that also involved Sea World Rescue, area fishermen and whale-watching vessel crews.
The young fin whale was first spotted two miles off Dana Point, but was traveling toward San Clemente and Oceanside. The disentanglement team lost the whale, which had a single rope around its head area above the dorsal fin, for an extended period at least once.
Capt. Frank Brennan of Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching, reached via cell phone, said the whale measured only about 30 feet, which would make it a nursing-age calf.
Brennan, who was one of the first to locate the whale but did not participate in the rescue effort, said the whale looked skinny.
Fin whales are second only to blue whales in terms of size, and can reach lengths of about 90 feet. They're also extremely fast for being such large mammals, and are sometimes referred to as greyhounds of the sea.