Canada fisherman killed by whale moments after rescuing it from net

Joe Howlett helped to rescue a north Atlantic right whale that had become heavily tangled in rope and was struck by the mammal afterward

Joe Howlett helped rescue a Young right whale tangled in fishing gear in Canada’s Bay of Fundy.
Joe Howlett helped rescue a Young right whale tangled in fishing gear in Canada’s Bay of Fundy. Photograph: International Fund for Animal Welfare
  in Toronto @ashifa_k

A Canadian lobster fisherman who saved dozens of endangered whales after they became tangled in fishing nets has been killed – moments after a last successful rescue.

Joe Howlett, from Campobello Island, New Brunswick, boarded a vessel off the province’s eastern coast on Monday to help rescue a north Atlantic right whale that had become heavily tangled in rope.

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. 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 helped free the whale – only to be struck by the mammal moments later, said Mackie Green of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team. “They got the whale totally disentangled and then some kind of freak thing happened and the whale made a big flip,” Green, who was not onboard the vessel, told the Canadian Press.

Howlett had previously saved some two dozen whales over the past 15 years, making use of his deep knowledge of knots and ropes to set the massive mammals free.

Just a few days before his death, Howlett had helped liberate another North Atlantic right whale in the region, cutting away a fishing line caught in its mouth.

“Joe definitely would not want us to stop because of this,” said Green, who joined forces with Howlett to launch the whale rescue in 2002. “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.”

On Tuesday, the federal fisheries department confirmed that Howlett had been killed while on one of its vessels, describing him as an “irreplaceable member of the whale rescue community”.

In a statement, the department offered its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the father of two. “Taking part in whale rescue operations requires immense bravery and a passion for the welfare of marine mammals,” it noted. “There are serious risks involved with any disentanglement attempt. Each situation is unique, and entangled whales can be unpredictable.”

Howlett’s death comes amid the unprecedented loss of seven north Atlantic right whales in the past month. 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 US and can reach up to 16 metres (50ft) in length – are dying in large numbers. Last week they carried out necropsies on three of the seven whales, hoping to find clues before the carcasses decompose.

While their findings are still preliminary and don’t explain why the deaths have seemingly occurred within such a short time frame, they found signs of severe blunt trauma and bruising on two of the whales, suggesting collision with a vessel, while the third had been tangled in fishing gear for weeks.

This entry was posted in Bảo tồn sinh vật hoang dã - Wild life preservation, Môi trường - Environment, Động và thực vật có nguy cơ tuyệt chủng - Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and tagged , , , , by Trần Đình Hoành. Bookmark the permalink.

About Trần Đình Hoành

I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn. I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law. I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam. In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship. Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam. I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN. I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development ( I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries. In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống). In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success". I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.

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