A B.C. boater that helped rescue an endangered humpback whale badly tangled in fishing line says government policy should allow citizens to help save wildlife.

Ingmar Lee saw the visibly tired whale dragging gillnet fishing line behind it in Lama Passage near Bella Bella on Tuesday.

After the Department of Fisheries and Oceans didn't respond, Lee set off with his wife and young son to help the marine mammal.

"No one knows how long the whale was tangled, but it was clearly exhausted," he told CTV Vancouver from Denny Island.

Lee and several others in a boat managed to hook onto the end of the net trail, and started sawing away at the rope and net until the whale was freed. They managed to remove the net but some of the rope remained on the tail. The massive marine mammal trumpeted several times before swimming away on its own.

The rescuer says he didn't set out to disentangle the whale but the conditions were in their favour, and they felt compelled to do what they could.

"We just started pulling the net into his boat and cutting it off as we went," he said, adding that in their three-hour ordeal they never saw or heard from DFO.

Policy from the DFO requires mariners to call them to deal with mammals in distress for their own safety and the well-being of the animal.

With the surge in the marine mammal population in recent years, Lee says the department should be working with locals to act as quickly as possible.

"All around the world it's local citizen groups that've been training and gathering equipment and actually conducting these whale disentanglements," he said.

Last year, local First Nations teamed up with researchers to save an Orca wedged on rocks by Hartley Bay.

Only a day later, staff from a waterfront resort in Washington rushed to save a harbour porpoise stranded on the beach till experts could arrive.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Penny Daflos