SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - When it comes to whale rescues, San Diego lifeguards are the first ones in the water, but the last ones to make a move.

That's because they don't have the federal permits to save entangled whales, something the San Diego Lifeguard Union is hoping to change.

In October, a 40-foot humpback whale caught a lobster line in its mouth off La Jolla Shores and even though lifeguards were on the scene monitoring the whale, they couldn’t make a move until an authorized team was on scene.

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"It is very frustrating to know that you have the skills and the abilities. I sat and watched this whale swim under my boat towing 100 feet of line. We waited 2 and a half to 3 hours for SeaWorld to arrive," said Ed Harris, San Diego Lifeguards Union.

It takes an authorized team with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Fisheries Service to legally get the job done.

“If we go out there and just run out there as quickly as possible, and of course everybody wants to get the gear off these animals as quickly as possible, the reality is if we do it too fast, then we miss the opportunity to kind of get to a bigger picture of what we’re looking to in the long term of this program," said Justin Viezbicke, Stranding Coordinator for National Marine Fisheries Service.

The scientists need photos and research to help prevent future entanglements, but local lifeguards want the process sped up to give them the green light they need to get in on the action.

"The sooner we can get on an injured animal and start working on it, the better off the animal is going to be," said Harris.

The National Marine Fisheries Service says it will be reaching out to lifeguards to get them involved in their training program.