Fisherman killed by whale after freeing it from tangled ropes

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A 59-year old Canadian fisherman has been killed by a whale moments after freeing it from his fishing net.

Canadian Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc confirmed on Tuesday that Howlett was working with federal conservation officers and the Canadian Coast Guard at the time of the rescue.

Joe Howlett has been a volunteer for the Campobello Whale Rescue Team for years.

"His skills as a mariner were surpassed only by the enduring friendships he developed with the researchers who worked with him", the aquarium said, adding that Howlett regularly attended the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium's annual meeting.

Meanwhile, a group of wildlife veterinarians say several North Atlantic right whale carcasses found floating in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in recent weeks showed signs of blunt trauma.

LeBlanc said "there are serious risks involved with any disentanglement attempt", adding that "entangled whales can be unpredictable". Mr Conway was not on the boat but he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that the whale was swimming clear of the lines when Mr Howlett was killed.

"Nobody has suggested to me the shipping and the fishing industry don't want to partner with us to take every possible measure to minimize the contact with these whales", LeBlanc said.

"You're dealing with a 70-ton whale that's very upset".

The International Fund for Animal Welfare, which funds the Campobello Whale Rescue Team, mourned Howlett as "a true friend of the animals" who had dedicated countless hours to rescuing whales in the Bay of Fundy and eastern Canada. "He had already played a critical role in disentangling a right whale on July 5 when a Canadian survey plane reported another entangled whale" on Monday.

The mayor of Campbello Island, Stephen Smart, also paid his respects to Joe.

"There's only 850 people here on Campobello Island now and Joe was a very lively character, he had a great sense of humor". News, of Howlett. "I'm sure for him, I'm sure it was just another day at work".

The move comes in response to a number of deaths to endangered whales and the death of Joe Howlett, a whale rescuer. In U.S. waters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration closely tracks right whale migration and feeding patterns, issues warning to the maritime industry to slow ship speeds in those areas, and requires commercial fishermen to use breakaway links in gill nets and lobster gear to reduce whale entanglements.