A Canadian fisherman tragically lost his life moments after successfully untangling a critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Veteran fisherman and co-founder of a local whale rescue team, Joe Howlett, 59, was called out to an operation Monday after an endangered Atlantic right whale became ensnared off Shippagan, Canada.
Howlett was on a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fast response vessel at the time of his death, and the whale rescue operation was assisted by the Canadian Coast Guard, the DFO said in a statement. Mr. Howlett has assisted in the rescue of about two dozen whales in the last 15 years.
"His expertise and dedication will be greatly missed", LeBlanc said.
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Mackie Green, from the Campobello Whale Rescue Team, told the paper: 'They got the whale totally disentangled, and then some kind of freak thing happened and the whale made a big flip'.
Jerry Conway of the Canadian Whale Institute in Campobello, N.B., said Howlett had freed another North Atlantic right whale in roughly the same area only a few days earlier.
Mr Howlett, a fisherman from Campobello Island in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, had been in the Campobello Whale Rescue Team since 2002.
"We're trying to understand what we need to do both to prevent these whales from getting entangled ... or perhaps being struck by ships in order to preserve this majestic and endangered species", Dominic LeBlanc said in an interview.
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The fisherman played a critical role in the rescue of another whale as recently as July 5, the statement said.
Since the beginning of June, seven right whales have been found dead in the gulf, and only about 525 of the species are left.
The fisherman was on board a Canadian boat when the whale swam away from the rope and "responded in a way that ultimately killed Joe".
"Joe definitely would not want us to stop because of this". Such rescues can take up to an hour and typically involve four to five people working together to free the whale.
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Joe Howlett, R.I.P. He was a good man, doing what he thought was right. "Everybody knew Joe Howlett and everybody respected Joe Howlett", said Mayor Stephen Smart. He said that every rescue attempt is unique and that a trapped whale could act unpredictably while being set loose.