An orca is tangled in a cray pot line in Whangārei Harbour, in Northland and the Department of Conservation is urging people to stay away from the area while efforts are underway to free it.

DoC responded this morning to reports of the orca entangled in the line and went to look for the mammal.

The tangled orca was found in Whangārei Harbour by Ingrid Visser and other members of the Orca Research Trust and its specialist disentanglement team is on site working to free him.

''We need space to do this work and request that the public do not approach the orca or DOC crews, stay at least 50m away in boats and do not enter the water,'' A DoC spokeswoman said.

Advertisement

The spokeswoman said DoC was the lead agency in whale strandings and entanglements and would direct the operation.

There are three orca in the pod with the large male who is tangled with the line and a large orange buoy.

Visser said the orca was first spotted near Tutukaka yesterday morning and members of the trust, working with Dive! Tutukaka, stayed with it until about 9pm last night when it was at Taiharuru, just north of Whangārei Harbour.

She and trust members caught up with it again in Whangārei Harbour this morning.

''He's an adult male who is with his family,'' Visser told the Northern Advocate from the scene this morning.

''We can hear him calling them, He's making distress calls and we've got to make sure his family is safe too.''

Visser said while the orca had a cray pot attached to the line yesterday, that had not come off, but disentangling the orca was not straight forward.

''It's around his right pec fin and it may have embedded in his skin so we will have to be careful.''

Advertisement

It could leave him with an infection which could cause blood poisoning and lead to a slow, painful death.

''The line is also very short so it's difficult to get a grip on it to cut it off,'' she said.

''So it;'s not just a simple matter of cutting the line off, it's got to be done very carefully.''

No further details are available at this time.