He died after rescuing a right whale entangled in fishing gear from a Department of Fisheries vessel near Shippagan, N.B. The whale hit Mr. Howlett as it burst free and swam away.
"Taking part in whale rescue operations requires vast bravery and a passion for the welfare of marine animals", said Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
Howlett was an accomplished member of the team, with dozens of rescues under his belt over the course of the past 15 years. His expertise and dedication will be greatly missed. He helped rescue another North Atlantic Right Whale in the region days before his death.
The Center for Coastal Studies said Howlett's death was "the only human fatality in the history of the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network", a group of rescuers operating along the Canadian and U.S. East Coast.
The man, Joe Howlett, was the founder of Campobello Whale Rescue and was also a lobster fisherman, Fox News reported.
LeBlanc added that any disentanglement attempt carries serious risks, and whales can be unpredictable.
Jerry Conway, an adviser to the team, said: "You're dealing with a 70-tonne whale that's very upset".
In a 2013 interview, Howlett had told CBC Mainstreet, that rescuing whales is "not a scary situation".
"Joe definitely would not want us to stop because of this", Mackie told the Canadian Press.
Joe Howlett, a lobsterman, boat captain, and certified whale disentanglement expert, had worked previously as the captain of the M/V Shelagh, a Canadian Whale Institute vessel that conducted joint field surveys with the aquarium, the Boston institution said in a statement.
The team uses high speed inflatable boats to reach an ensnared whale, then bladed extension poles are used to cut a fishing line.
"There's only 850 people here on Campobello Island now and Joe was a very lively character, he had a great sense of humor", Smart told the news site.
"The most important thing I think Mr. Howlett would have wanted is we take every step to protect these endangered species and the safety of those that are working around them", said LeBlanc.
"Everybody knew Joe Howlett and everybody respected Joe Howlett.it's a big blow", he added. At least one of the whales found dead was entangled in crab fishing gear.