Amer­i­can agency sus­pends res­cues

NOAA sus­pend­ing all large whale en­tan­gle­ment re­sponse ac­tiv­i­ties na­tion­ally un­til fur­ther no­tice

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC -

An Amer­i­can agency that re­sponds to marine mam­mals in dis­tress has halted its ef­forts to free large whales trapped in fish­ing gear fol­low­ing the re­cent death of a whale res­cuer in New Brunswick.

Chris Oliver, as­sis­tant ad­min­is­tra­tor with the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion, ex­tended con­do­lences Wed­nes­day to the fam­ily of Joe Howlett of Cam­po­bello Is­land.

Howlett, who also worked as a lob­ster fish­er­man, was killed Mon­day af­ter free­ing a North At­lantic right whale that had been en­tan­gled in fish­ing gear near Ship­pa­gan, N.B.

A close friend of Howlett’s said the 59-year-old vet­eran fish­er­man was hit by the whale just af­ter it was cut free and started swim­ming away.

“Be­cause en­sur­ing the safety of re­spon­ders is of para­mount im­por­tance, NOAA Fish­eries is sus­pend­ing all large whale en­tan­gle­ment re­sponse ac­tiv­i­ties na­tion­ally un­til fur­ther no­tice, in or­der to re­view our own emer­gency re­sponse pro­to­cols,” Oliver said in a state­ment.

“Mem­bers of the gen­eral pub­lic should never at­tempt to res­cue a stranded or en­tan­gled marine an­i­mal.”

Howlett had helped res­cue about two dozen whales over the last 15 years.

On Tues­day, fed­eral Fish­eries Min­is­ter Do­minic LeBlanc con­firmed Howlett was work­ing with fed­eral con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cers and the Cana­dian Coast Guard when the res­cue was tak­ing place.

LeBlanc de­scrib­ing Howlett as an “ir­re­place­able mem­ber of the whale res­cue com­mu­nity,” and the min­is­ter noted that whale res­cues re­quire “im­mense brav­ery” to deal with the se­ri­ous risks that come with han­dling large, un­pre­dictable an­i­mals.

A num­ber of celebri­ties, in­clud­ing Cana­dian au­thor Mar­garet At­wood and co­me­dian Sarah Sil­ver­man, took to so­cial me­dia to praise Howlett for his work to save whales.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Fund for An­i­mal Wel­fare, nearly three-quar­ters of all known North At­lantic right whales have scars from past en­tan­gle­ments with com­mer­cial fish­ing gear.

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