In Me­mo­riam Joe Howlett

Canadian Wildlife - - CONTENTS - By Nick Hawkins

Pay­ing homage to the Bay of Fundy fish­er­man and co-founder of the Cam­po­bello Whale Res­cue team who died in July while res­cu­ing an en­tan­gled whale

In our March/april 2017 is­sue, the cover story “Depths of De­spair” fo­cused on whales be­com­ing en­tan­gled in fish­ing gear in and around the Bay of Fundy and the vol­un­teer res­cuers who save them. In it, pho­tog­ra­pher and writer Nick Hawkins in­ter­viewed, among others, com­mer­cial fish­er­man, team co-founder and lead res­cuer Joe Howlett. As has been widely cov­ered in the news me­dia, on July 10 of this year, Howlett was called to help free a whale en­snared in fish­ing gear off the coast near Ship­pa­gan, N.B. The only trained res­cuer on board, he sin­gle­hand­edly man­aged to lib­er­ate the 70-tonne leviathan. When the whale sensed it was free, it sud­denly dove. As it did its mas­sive tail struck Howlett a fa­tal blow. He suc­cumbed al­most im­me­di­ately to his in­juries. He was 59. Joe Howlett is sur­vived by a large and proud group of friends and fam­ily, in­clud­ing his wife, Dar­lene, and sons, Chad and Tyler. I was for­tu­nate to meet Joe Howlett in Oc­to­ber of 2016, while I was re­port­ing and pho­tograph­ing a story for Cana­dian Wildlife magazine about the Cam­po­bello Whale Res­cue Team he co-founded in 2002 with fel­low fish­er­man Mackie Greene. I in­ter­viewed Joe as we sat bob­bing in his res­cue boat on the Bay of Fundy on that beau­ti­ful fall evening. We talked about his rea­sons for vol­un­teer­ing so much time, us­ing all his life’s experience on the wa­ter to dis­en­tan­gle whales that would oth­er­wise be doomed to a slow and painful death. He was pas­sion­ate as he talked about their plight. I was struck by his ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment.

We talked also about the risks the res­cues en­tailed. Joe un­der­stood the dan­gers of whale dis­en­tan­gle­ment and still put him­self on the front lines, suc­cess­fully res­cu­ing dozens of whales over the past 15 years. When I asked him about what could be done to im­prove whale res­cue, his re­ply was sim­ple and to the point: “We need more sup­port to do this job safely and ef­fec­tively.”

Then he gave the throt­tle a push and we rushed for­ward. That’s the mo­ment I took this im­age of Joe Howlett at the helm of the res­cue boat.

I did not know the man well, but af­ter that one day, I am con­fi­dent that Joe Howlett would want this im­por­tant work to con­tinue. Clearly what is needed is ex­actly what Joe said to me that evening in Oc­to­ber: more sup­port for the men and women work­ing to free th­ese an­i­mals and more ef­fort to pre­vent whales from be­com­ing en­tan­gled. This would be the most fit­ting trib­ute to a gen­uine hero.

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