CAMPOBELLO ISLAND, Canada — A Canadian lobster fisherman was tragically killed by a whale just moments after cutting it free from a fishing net in which it had gotten entangled, authorities said.
Joe Howlett had joined the crew of a Fisheries Department vessel that on Monday went to rescue the trapped right whale in the waters off New Brunswick.
He was in the water with the whale and had cut the last bit of line from the creature’s body when tragedy struck.
“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.
Officials with the fisheries department noted that disentangling whales involved “serious risks” as the animals can be very unpredictable.
Howlett had for years volunteered for such missions, lending his expertise in seafaring knots and how nets are constructed, friends said.
“This is something he loved and there’s no better feeling than getting a whale untangled, and I know how good he was feeling after cutting that whale clear,” Green said.
Seven right whales — which are highly endangered –had been found dead in waters near Campobello Island in the week before Howlett’s death. At least one was determined to have died due to getting trapped in a fishing net and two others appeared to have died from boat strikes, officials said.