The death of whale rescuer Joe Howlett prompted the US Atmospheric and Oceanic Agency (NOAA) to impose a suspension of rescue operations on large cetaceans.However, it is unclear whether Fisheries and Oceans intends to do the same.
Howlett, who had been involved in rescuing dozens of whales over the last 15 years with the Campobello Whale Rescue Team (CWRT), was killed Monday after he had just released a right whale in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Lawrence.
This death, the first to occur among the teams that have been conducting these highly risky operations for several years, has prompted NOAA to impose a moratorium on any further attempts at liberation. According to the US agency, which faces several such cases each year, the intention is to “review the response protocols in light of this event” .
The Director of the Marine Mammal Research and Education Group, Robert Michaud, himself acknowledged that the tragic event off the coast of New Brunswick highlighted the complexity and riskiness of such operations.
After all, rescuers are dealing with animals that often exceed 15 meters in length, weighing more than 60 tonnes. What’s more, whales caught in fishing gear can be particularly aggressive and unpredictable.
“Mr. Howlett’s notable experience and contribution to whale rescue include his very recent and critical role in successfully freeing an entangled whale on July 5,” said LeBlanc. “There are serious risks involved with any disentanglement attempt. Each situation is unique, and entangled whales can be unpredictable.”