Canadian Fisherman, Joe Howlett, Killed After Trying To Help A Whale

James Marshall
July 16, 2017

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's whale rescue efforts have been temporarily put on hold, following the death of a longtime Canadian emergency responder during a rescue operation earlier in the week.

The New England Aquarium says Howlett was a lobsterman, captain and whale rescue expert. The Canadian government is now looking into how the country's Fisheries Department responds to reports of entangled whales, and any efforts to free North Atlantic right whales from the fishing equipment they are trapped in will also be suspended until the government review wraps up.

Howlett had a number of successful whale rescue missions under his belt and was the cofounder of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team.

Joe Howlett, 59, was freeing a whale from snow crab fishing lines when he died near Shippagan.

The team successfully disentangled the right whale, but soon after the whale was rescued, it made a "big flip" and accidentally struck Howlett on July 10.

"Even if the animal doesn't even touch you, just the force of it pushing away with its flukes can push you aside".

Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Minister Dominic LeBlanc issued a statement regretting the loss of Howlett, whom he described as an "irreplaceable member of the whale rescue community".

The Canadian Minister Dominic LeBlanc stated of whale rescues: "Taking part in whale rescue operations requires enormous bravery and a passion for the welfare of marine animals".

NOAA's whale rescue suspension, on the other hand, covers all large whale species, per a statement from the agency's public affairs officer, Kate Brogan. "There are serious risks involved with any disentanglement attempt". Whales typically roll over to escape, and rescuers could get dragged over the side of the boat or also entangled and dragged under by the whale.

Howlett was an experienced rescuer who was able to use his years of experience working as a lobster fisherman in his commitment to save entangled whales.

It is worth noting that the NOAA's decision was for a temporary suspension of large whale rescue efforts merely to give the agency time to perhaps review their protocols when it comes to rescuing large whales from disentanglement. "NOAA Fisheries and partners will continue to provide all other stranding response services to marine mammals in distress".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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