Fisherman killed by whale after freeing it from tangled ropes

Joe Howlett shown here with his son Tyler Howlett died saving a right whale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Joe Howlett shown here with his son Tyler Howlett died saving a right whale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence

Howlett died after freeing a North Atlantic right whale that had been entangled in fishing gear near Shippagan, N.B.

Dedicated whale rescuer Joe Howlett was struck and killed Monday by a North Atlantic right whale that he helped free.

Jerry Conway, an adviser to the team, said: "You're dealing with a 70-tonne whale that's very upset".

"They got the whale totally disentangled and then some kind of freak thing happened and the whale made a big flip", Mackie Green of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team told the Canadian press.

It should be noted that the Center also said that "Howlett's death is the only human fatality in the history of the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network".

"Based on gross observations of the first whale ... necropsied, it is impossible to reach a preliminary diagnosis", the release said.

'Joe was the life of the party.

It's unclear exactly what led to Howlett's death, but the massive whale apparently made a sudden movement during the rescue. The largest threats to the species have been collisions with boats, getting tangled in fishing gear and underwater noise, according to the department.

"His expertise and dedication will be greatly missed", LeBlanc said.

The bruising was consistent with damage caused by collisions with fishing vessels and being ensnared in fishing nets for a lengthy period of time.

"Joe definitely would not want us to stop because of this".

At the time of the fatal incident, Mr. Howlett was on a Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) fast response vessel.

Officials are also asking mariners to slow down along the Laurentian channel shipping lanes between the Magdalen Islands and the Gaspe peninsula until Sept. 30. Joe, who co-founded the CWI Campobello Whale Rescue Team in 2002, was committed to saving whales.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare, a partner with the Campobello Whale Rescue Team, remembered Howlett as a dedicated volunteer who lived up to the organization's core mission. 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. "Everybody knew Joe Howlett and everybody respected Joe Howlett".