The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Friday it is halting efforts to free whales trapped in fishing lines after a prominent activist was killed.
NOAA “is suspending all large whale entanglement response activities nationally until further notice,” Kate Brogan, a NOAA public affairs officer, told National Public Radio. “NOAA Fisheries and partners will continue to provide all other stranding response services to marine mammals in distress.”
The move comes days after anti-whaling activist Joe Howlett was killed by a whale he freed from a fishing net. NOAA will review its emergency response protocols.
NOAA estimates there are roughly 400 of these whales left on Earth. The government entity lists entanglement in fishing equipment as one of the greatest threats to right whales, with an estimated 75 percent of these whales becoming entangled at some point in their lifetimes. Activists like Howlett cut right whales lose from the nets when they become entangled.
Howlett’s fellow whale rescuers don’t think the whale was malicious, but a freak accident.
“They got the whale totally disentangled, and then some kind of freak thing happened and the whale made a big flip,” Mick Green, a rescue team member, told United Press International.
Howlett helped found a whale rescue group and was personally involved in saving about two dozen whales in the past 15 years.
“Joe definitely would not want us to stop because of this. This is something he loved and there’s no better feeling than getting a whale untangled, and I know how good he was feeling after cutting that whale clear,” Green said.
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