Fisherman killed by whale's 'big flip' moments after rescuing it from net

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A lobster fisherman was killed by an endangered whale moments after he saved it when it became tangled in a fishing net.

Joe Howlett, from New Brunswick in Canada, had reportedly saved dozens of the huge mammals while at sea.

He sailed off the province’s eastern coast to help rescue a North Atlantic whale that had become tangled in rope on Monday.

Mr Howlett managed to free the whale but was struck by it just moments later when it is said to have “made a big flip.”

Mackie Green, from the Campobello Whale Rescue Team, told local newspaper Medicine Hat News: “They got the whale totally disentangled, and then some kind of freak thing happened and the whale made a big flip.”

The federal fisheries department confirmed Mr Howlett had been killed while on one of its boats, adding that he was “an irreplacable member of the whale rescue community.”

In a statement on Tuesday, it said: “Taking part in whale rescue operations requires immense bravery and a passion for the welfare of marine mammals.

“There are serious risks involved with any disentanglement attempt. Each situation is unique, and entangled whales can be unpredictable.”

The whales, which live along the eastern seaboard of Canada and the US, can reach up to 50ft in length. 

It is believed the global population of the marine mammal is about 525. 

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