A man who tried to free a whale trapped in a fishing net is dead, and the local community is in mourning.
A man well-known in the local community in New Brunswick, Canada, as a whale rescuer has died after he tried to free a whale tangled in commercial fishing gear on Monday. As a result, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is putting a stop to whale rescuing efforts for the time being.
Joe Howlett, 59, was working to cut a North Atlantic Right Whale out of the netting off the coast of New Brunswick when he was struck by the whale. There has not been an official cause of death confirmed yet, but witnesses say he was hit by the whale shortly after it was cut free and tried to escape. It’s a demonstration of the tremendous danger whales can pose to humans due to their sheer size, even if they are not being aggressive toward humans.
Howlett is a member of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team, which he co-founded. He also was employed as a lobster fisherman. He was a veteran whale rescuer, and his death demonstrates the danger of such work.
“It is with sadness that I offer my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Mr. Joe Howlett,” Minister Dominic LeBlanc said in a statement. “Mr. Howlett was a member of a non-governmental organization, Campobello Whale Rescue, who tragically lost his life yesterday while taking part in a rescue operation to disentangle a North Atlantic Right whale off the coast of New Brunswick. Taking part in whale rescue operations requires immense bravery and a passion for the welfare of marine mammals. Mr. Howlett’s notable experience and contribution to whale rescue include his very recent and critical role in successfully freeing an entangled whale on July 5.”