Fisherman killed by whale after freeing it from tangled ropes

Eloi Lecerf
Julho 12, 2017

The rescue was steeped in urgency: in the past month seven north Atlantic right whales have been found floating lifelessly in the Gulf of St Lawrence, off Canada. A 2011 survey found less than 500 individual right whales in the western North Atlantic, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"This is something he loved and there's no better feeling than getting a whale untangled, and I know how good he was feeling after cutting that whale clear". Rescuers like Mr Howlett had "immense bravery and a passion for the welfare of marine mammals".

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. "The cause of death is unknown at this time and DFO is committed to finding out what happened to these animals and to protecting this species". With a global population believed to be around 525, the string of deaths suggests that more than 1% of the population has died in recent weeks. Howlett had been part of that operation. A team included marine biologists, federal scientists and pathologists among others, have been racing to figure out why the whales - which live along the eastern seaboard of Canada and the USA and can reach up to 16 metres in length - are dying in large numbers.

Howlett was an accomplished member of the team, with dozens of rescues under his belt over the course of the past 15 years.

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The mayor of Campbello Island, Stephen Smart, also paid his respects to Joe.

"There's only 850 people here on Campobello Island now and Joe was a very lively character, he had a great sense of humor", Smart told the news site.

Smart added that Howlett's death was a "big blow" to the tiny community.

He added: "I'm sure for him, I'm sure it was just another day at work. he was a very courageous man, a very good man and was doing something he believed in".

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