CAMPOBELLO ISLAND, NEW BRUNSWICK — A Canadian lobster fisherman who’d spent the past chapter of his life rescuing whales met his end in the process of freeing one more.
On July 10, off the coast of New Brunswick, Joe Howlett, 59, got a call about a North Atlantic right whale tangled in a net and headed out to tackle the knots.
He arrived in time, and from his boat, he managed to cut the ropes and free the big fella.
Unfortunately, the joy was short lived. As the 50-foot, 70-ton whale swam free, the crew reports things took a freak turn as it flipped and smacked Howlett. The noble fisherman, who had saved more than two dozen of the whales over the past 15 years, was killed.
Howlett’s Campobello Whale Rescue Team, along with the entire marine conservation community, now mourns the loss of their brave companion who truly dedicated his life to the cause.
His efforts were not in vain, as seven North Atlantic right whale carcasses have turned up in the Gulf of St. Lawrence over the past month. Fishing gear entanglement and ship strikes have proven to be the leading causes of these whale deaths.
An endangered species protected in the U.S. and Canada, the Guardian reports only an estimated 525 North Atlantic right whales remain on Earth.
The global population is believed to have been reduced by 1 percent in recent weeks. A group of marine biologists, pathologists, and federal scientists are currently working tirelessly to uncover the factors behind this alarming and unprecedented die-off.