Department of Conservation staff and volunteers from Orca Research are in the Bay of Islands trying to asses if it's safe enough to help an adult humpback whale that is tangled in a rope.

DoC spokeswoman Abi Monteith said the agency was informed early this afternoon that the adult humpback had been spotted in difficulty in the outer Bay of Islands.

DoC sent staff to the area and found the whale had become entangled in rope that was believed to be attached to a crayfish pot.

Monteith said Northland whale and orca expert Dr Ingrid Visser (who has experience if freeing whales caught in ropes), from Orca Research, had been contacted and was believed to be on her way to the Bay of Islands to help with the rescue operation.

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''We are assessing whether it's going to be safe for humans to disentangle the whale and we're urging people to stay away from the area while we do this,' she said.

''Given how inquisitive these whales are, it's not uncommon for them to become tangled in ropes.''

New Zealand's winter and early spring was the whale's peak migration time and in the past month there have been a number of humpback whale sightings in the region.

Early last month an adult female humpback and a calf died after stranding on Baylys Beach, south of Dargaville, and a week later another humpback was spotted in Whangarei Harbour.