UPDATE 4.45pm: THE humpback whale entangled in what was believed to be fishing nets off Byron Bay has been freed.
National Parks and Wildlife Spokesman Lawrence Orel said the whale was disentangled just before 4pm when it was due east of Tallow Creek.
Mr Orel said more than 30 metres of nylon rope and a buoy, believed to be from a fishing trap, was tangled around the mammal.
The whale was last seen swimming freely, Mr Orel said, and its prognosis is good.
UPDATE 2pm: A DISTRESSED humpback whale spotted off Byron Bay this morning has turned around and is heading in a southerly direction.
National Parks and Wildlife spokesman Lawrence Orel said the humpback, which is entangled is what is believed to be a fishing net, was off the coast from Tyagarah when it headed back toward Byron Bay.
Mr Orel said the whale is being shadowed by a Marine Parks boat with National Parks staff on board.
"The last report received at 1.03pm indicated the whale was off Cape Byron and moving in a southerly direction," he said.
Mr Orel said the whale appeared to be moving further offshore.
A rescue crew who were coming from Queensland are yet to arrive at the scene to assess the entanglement.
UPDATE 10.30am: NATIONAL Parks and Wildlife staff are warning people not to try to swim out to a distressed whale spotted off Byron Bay this morning.
Spokesman Lawrence Orel warned people not to try to approach the whale, either by swimming or by boat.
"We are reminding people to stay well away, particularly if it's a fresh entanglement because the animal can become very agitated," he said
"Our crews will not approach the whale until it's safe to do so.
"People really need to resist that temptation to think that they are trying to help because they're more likely than not putting themselves in danger and maybe others in danger."
Mr Orel said it had been confirmed the whale was a juvenile humpback that appeared to be caught in some sort of fishing net.
"The crews are trying to assess the extent of that entanglement and what might be the potential options for removing it"
"What we don't know at this stage is the extent of the entangling material and if it's trailing behind the animal."
Reports of the distressed whale came at first light, Mr Orel said, when the whale was off Main Beach.
"It is slowly moving westward and its up around the Belongil area now after it was first spotted off Main Beach."
"We expect it will probably continue generally northward around the bay."
Crews are assessing whether to launch a boat from the beach at Byron Bay or from Brunswick Heads.
Depending on the extent of the entanglement, Mr Orel said it was possible the rescue could take all day or possibly longer.
"This may go on all day or it maybe a couple of days because you literally need, in most cases, to wait for the animal to calm down."
"For it to be calm enough to approach is normally when it becomes tired."
"All we will do now is simply shadow the animal for some time unless it's a really simple operation that can be affected immediately."
UPDATE 9.15am: MORE than 100 people have packed Byron Bay Main Beach attempting to spot a whale in distress off shore.
A National Parks and Wildlife Service spokesman said the whale is reportedly 150 metres off shore.
The spokesman said members of whale rescue group ORRCA were on the beach liaising with National Parks and Wildlife rangers.
A boat is being prepared for National Parks and Wildlife staff to assess the whales condition.
ORIGINAL 9am: NATIONAL Parks and Wildlife staff are responding to reports of a whale in distress off Byron Bay this morning.
National Parks spokesman Lawrence Orell said the service received reports this morning that a whale was in distress off Byron Bay main beach.
Mr Orell told ABC radio there were reports the whale had become entangled in a buoy.
He said it is presumed the whale is a juvenile humpback, but they can't be certain until staff get a closer look.
The rescue operation is expected to take several hours, as Mr Orell said staff will have to wait until the whale tires until they can attempt to remove the entanglement.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.