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SAN DIEGO – San Diego lifeguards are calling on federal  officials to let them help rescue whales that become entangled in ropes and nets off the San Diego coast.

Three whales have become entangled from buoy lines and fishing nets near San Diego in the last few weeks, and although lifeguards were usually the first potential rescuers to arrive on the scene, they currently do not have permission to assist the huge marine mammals, according to said lifeguard union spokesperson Ed Harris. All they can do is monitor the tangled whale while they wait for SeaWorld rescuers to arrive on scene.

Just last week, a 25-foot humpback whale got caught in a buoy line and was unable to move or swim.

“The whale is almost hogtied, and we have watermen more than competent enough to get in the water and free this thing,” said lifeguard union spokesperson Ed Harris.

Harris says it’s time lifeguards in San Diego get the go ahead to help whales in distress.

“The faster you can get on an animal that is struggling, the better their chances for survival” Harris said. “It just makes sense.”

Whales are protected by federal regulations under the Endangered Species Act and The Marine Mammal Protection Act, according to Jamison Smith, of  the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA contacts SeaWorld in cased of entangled whales, because SeaWorld rescue teams are trained, equipped and authorized to respond.

“If lifeguards want to receive training and authorization, they need to reach out to NOAA Fisheries,” Smith told FOX 5.