Willie Bedford saw this whale entangled near Apollo Bay.

Authorities are searching for a distressed southern right whale seen entangled in rope offshore near Apollo Bay.

Marengo’s Willie Bedford and her guest first saw the whale caught in rope about 80 metres out to sea from Ms Bedford’s holiday accommodation on Monday, before notifying authorities.

“At first I thought that was lovely; I’m seeing a whale breaching, but then I realised it had ropes around its tail and around its body, it was thrashing around and couldn’t get free,” Ms Bedford said.

Fisheries Victoria officers attended Marengo late on Monday afternoon, but were unable to locate the whale in fading light.

The Department of Environment Land, Water and Planning declared the situation an emergency yesterday, setting up an incident control centre in Colac and deploying an aircraft to search for the whale.

The whale was still missing when the Colac Herald went to print yesterday.

“There are around 20 staff involved on-site from DELWP, Parks Victoria and Fisheries Victoria, with some crews coming from other regions on standby to provide assistance if the whale is spotted,” incident controller Stephanie Ryan said.

“Current weather conditions are not favourable for crews to be deployed by boat and appear unlikely to improve as the day progresses.”

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