Whale Disentanglement Efforts Suspended After Canadian Fatality

Joe Howlett (R)

NEW BRUNSWICK, Canada – The Provincetown-based Center for Coastal Studies is mourning the loss of a colleague who was killed while trying to save a right whale off the coast of Canada.

Joe Howlett died while trying to disentangle a whale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence off of New Brunswick. According to the CBC, Howlett was struck by the whale after freeing it from a rope.

“We were deeply shocked to hear the news,” the Center for Coastal Studies said in a statement. “To the end, Joe was utterly dedicated to conservation and had helped many individual whales in the course of his career. His death highlights the critical situation whales currently face and the risks associated with this work.

The Center added that Howlett’s death is the only human fatality in the history of the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network, a group of highly trained whale entanglement rescue teams along the U.S. and Canadian east coasts.

In response to the incident, NOAA has suspended all large whale disentanglement efforts in U.S. waters until further notice. The federal agency says it will review their response protocols in the wake of Howlett’s death.

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