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Fisherman killed saving whale recalled as longtime advocate

16 July 2017, 04:23 | Bernard Bryant

Fisherman killed saving whale recalled as longtime advocate

Fisherman killed saving whale recalled as longtime advocate

Owing to this accident and death of Howlett, NOAA chose to halt the large whale entanglement rescue efforts to review their current emergency response protocols.

The incident that prompted the NOAA to place a whale rescue moratorium took place on Monday in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence, as colleagues recalled that Howlett was struck by the right whale he had freed, just as it had taken off. Removing whales from fishing gear would typically require the use of long poles with sharp blades on one end, which are then used to cut fishing lines, crab floats, or other objects that may have wrapped around the whales.

The announcement regarding the suspension of whale rescue efforts comes a few days after the death of Joe Howlett, a former fisherman and boat captain and cofounder of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team.

According to Howlett's teammate, Mackie Green, the whale made a "big flip" right after they had disentangled it from the net. "Joe definitely would not want us to stop because of this".

Howlett's death is the first recorded death in the community of individuals seeking to free large whales from disentanglement.

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

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The Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative issued a statement Thursday saying two necropsies were performed earlier this week in the Magdalen Islands, and while one right whale carcass was too decomposed for a preliminary diagnosis, the second had marks of blunt trauma. A group of wildlife veterinarians said that several of these whales showed signs of blunt trauma, the National Post reported.

In recent weeks, several right whales have been found dead in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The cooperative said the blunt trauma suggests the whale may have collided with a vessel.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also announced this week it is suspending efforts to free entangled whales found in the ocean. The deaths have concerned many conservationists and represent a devastating blow to the endangered whale's population, which is now only about 525. According to the United States agency, which faces several such cases each year, the intention is to "review the response protocols in light of this event".

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.

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