NOAA Suspends Whale Rescue Efforts After Rescuer's Death

NOAA Suspends Whale Rescue Efforts After Rescuer's Death

NOAA Suspends Whale Rescue Efforts After Rescuer's Death

Members of the marine community in the US and Canada say a Canadian fisherman who died freeing a whale from fishing gear was a longtime whale advocate who bridged gaps between fishing and conservation.

Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc told CTV News in an interview Thursday that the federal government is investigating how New Brunswick lobster fisherman Joe Howlett died while rescuing an entangled right whale. 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.

Being an active whale rescuer, he was one of the "fast response" vessels that were attempting to rescue a North Atlantic right whale that had gotten entangled on the fishing lines off the coast of New Brunswick.

According to Howlett's teammate, Mackie Green, the whale made a "big flip" right after they had disentangled it from the net.

As noted by Nevada Public Radio in the above report on NOAA's whale rescue effort suspension, Joe Howlett's death is thought to be the first of its kind in the community dedicated to freeing stranded North Atlantic right whales.

Howlett had a number of successful whale rescue missions under his belt and was the cofounder of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team.

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His remarks were echoed by Jerry Conway, an adviser to the Canadian Whale Institute in Campobello.

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

The National Post reports that as of July 5, authorities had found seven North Atlantic right whale carcasses in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The deaths represent a devastating blow to the whale's fragile population, which is now only about 525.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has since issued a statement expressing their condolences to the veteran fisherman's family for their loss. According to the USA agency, which faces several such cases each year, the intention is to "review the response protocols in light of this event". "NOAA Fisheries and partners will continue to provide all other stranding response services to marine mammals in distress".

Meanwhile, Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Thursday it's immediately closing sites of the snow crab fishing area where right whales have been seen.

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