The injured orca whale thought freed from crayfish line after a desperate rescue mission remains entangled and might only have days to live.
The orca was first spotted in December after a crayfish pot became wrapped around its right pectoral fin in near Tutukaka in Northland.
A joint team of staff from the Department of Conservation (DoC) staff and the Orca Research Trust managed to cut the line from the pot on December 27 and thought the orca had been successfully freed.
However a video review of the operation has revealed the orca is still wrapped in line and is in "life-threatening danger".
"Sadly, we have to report that the adult male orca, who we believed had been cut free from the craypot line entangling him, is still in life-threatening danger," Orca Research Trust founder Dr Ingrid Visser posted to Facebook.
"A substantial amount of line, previously undetected, remains wrapped around his pectoral fins."
Dr Visser says the line continues to cut into the orca's flesh and it "might only be a matter of days" before it succumbs to its injuries.
Dr Visser says she was "operating in good faith" with DoC, who informed her that they had cut the line.
"We were informed that the line around him had been cut and I had little reason to disbelieve this statement," she posted to Facebook.
"Despite that assurance from DoC, when the whale broke free I had concerns that there was line still attached and expressed those to DoC, but we had all hoped that any remaining rope would fall off him."
The Orca Research Trust has now requested an urgent meeting with DoC to discuss how they can all work together to help him.
But it's been two weeks since the orca was thought freed, and the orca could now be anywhere.
Dr Visser is appealing for Kiwis to help, saying it could take a nationwide search to find it.
"We request that all sightings of orca are reported immediately to 0800 SEE ORCA, to facilitate locating him."