The funeral for Joe Howlett, who was killed this week by a right whale he'd just rescued, will be held on Campobello Island today at 2 p.m.

Howlett, 59, the co-founder of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team, died Monday after freeing a whale from snow crab lines near Shippagan.

On the small island of 850 off the southwest corner of New Brunswick, Howlett was well-known. His friends and colleagues have described him as a lively character, brave and hardworking.

campobello island

Howlett moved to Campobello Island from Chester, N.S., after he was married. He was a commercial fisherman and experienced whale rescuer. (Campobello Island Facebook )

"Everybody knew Joe Howlett and everybody respected Joe Howlett," said Stephen Smart, the mayor of Campobello.

The Nova Scotia-born Howlett moved to Campobello when he got married. He was a commercial fisherman but dedicated years of his life to the rescue of whales that got tangled up in fishing rope.

On the morning of July 10, he was aboard a Department of Fisheries and Oceans zodiac with three others when the fatal accident occurred in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

The details of how he died are unclear, and separate investigations are underway by Transport Canada and the Fisheries Department. 

"He was a hero," said Jerry Conway, a member of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team and a friend of Howlett's for 18 years.

"He knew he was putting his life on the line for a 70-tonne whale that was upset … trying to deal with a wild animal."

Joe Howlett freeing a right whale in the Bay of Fundy in 20160:51

"He was a hero," said Conway. "He knew he was putting his life on the line for a 70-tonne that was upset … trying to deal with a wild animal."

In an interview with CBC Mainstreet, Howlett talked about his rescue work and said he didn't find it scary. 

"I'm a fisherman and I've been fishing for half of my life, and I know what it's all about with ropes and things like that," he said.

For Howlett, Monday would have been just another day at work.

right whale entangled (international fund for animal welfare)

Joe Howlett died rescuing a whale which was entangled in snow crab fishery gear. (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

"Somehow fishermen try to make a living and they do what they do, and they have to, and whales seem to get caught every once in awhile," Howlett said in 2013.

"And when it does, we are there to help out."

With files from CBC News