OTTAWA: A Canadian fisherman lost his life after freeing a whale which had become tangled up in fishing gear.
Joe Howlett, from Campobello Island, New Brunswick, has saved dozens of endangered whales after they became entangled in fishing nets.
Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc offered his sympathies to Mr Howlett’s family and friends.
In a statement, he said: “We have lost an irreplaceable member of the whale rescue community. His expertise and dedication will be greatly missed.”
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The 59-year-old had boarded a vessel off the province’s eastern coast to help rescue a north Atlantic whale which had become entangled in heavy rope.
Soon after cutting the last piece of rope from the massive whale, Mr Howlett was struck by the mammal, Mackie Green, of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team, said.
“They got the whale totally disentangled and then some kind of freak thing happened and the whale made a big flip,” Mr Green, who was not on the vessel at the time, told the Toronto Star.
Mr Howlett has helped rescue around two dozen whales over the past 15 years, his family and friends said.
Days before his death, he had rescued another North Atlantic right whale in the same region.
“Joe definitely would not want us to stop because of this,” Mr Green, who co-founded the Campobello Whale Rescue Team with Mr Howlett in 2012, added.
“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.”