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By Andrew Follett

An endangered whale killed an anti-whaling activist who attempted to free the animal from a net, according to Canadian officials.

Lobster fisherman Joe Howlett rescued a North Atlantic right whale trapped in a tangled fishing line Monday, but seconds after the rescue, Howlett was struck and killed by the whale.

Howlett helped found a whale rescue group and was personally involved in saving about two dozen whales in the past 15 years.

Fellow 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.

“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.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates there are roughly 400 of these whales left on Earth. North Atlantic right whales can grow to 50 feet in length. NOAA 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.

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