A 59-year old Canadian fisherman has been killed by a whale moments after freeing it from his fishing net.
Captain and co-founder of the rescue group Mackie Greene said that the North American right whale flipped oddly after being freed from entanglement and his body crashed into Howlett's, causing his death, Fox reported.
"We have lost an irreplaceable member of the whale rescue community", Dominic LeBlanc, minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said in a statement. Mr. Howlett has assisted in the rescue of about two dozen whales in the last 15 years. "His expertise and dedication will be greatly missed", he added.
Howlett 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 global population of North Atlantic Right Whale is estimated to be around 525.
Mr Howlett, a fisherman from Campobello Island in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, had been in the Campobello Whale Rescue Team since 2002.
"Joe definitely would not want us to stop because of this".
"This is something he loved and there's no better feeling than getting a whale untangled", Green, who was not aboard the vessel with Howlett, told Canadian Press. Over the past month, seven of this endangered whale have been found floating lifeless in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 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".
The fisherman played a critical role in the rescue of another whale as recently as July 5, the statement said.
Whale rescue attempts typically involve the use of poles with cutting implements to free the whale from tangled lines, and rescuers do not get in the water during the operations.
"You're dealing with a 70-ton whale that's very upset".
"The most important thing I think Mr. Howlett would have wanted is we take every step to protect these endangered species and the safety of those that are working around them", said LeBlanc. "Everybody knew Joe Howlett and everybody respected Joe Howlett... it's a big blow", Stephen Smart, the towns mayor told the CBC.
Joe Howlett (left) and his son.
"He was a great fella and he really cared about the whales", he said.