Sharkwater Extinction Shares Rob Stewart’s Ocean Activism
Rob Stewart graced this earth with his passion, gentleness, intelligence, beauty, and compassion on land, in the ocean — and also on the big screen. He was a filmmaker, activist, biologist, and famously a friend to sharks. Rob was at one with sharks of all kinds, equally comfortable hugging them as he was advocating for them. A rare human being.
Sadly, Rob died in 2017 at the age of 37 during the making of this, his third documentary film, a follow-up on the subject of the hitherto-unknown plight of shark populations at the hands of the fishing industry. His first film Sharkwater not only won awards but also helped improve legislation worldwide.
Sharkwater Extinction opens on digital and in demand on February 1 and in select theaters on March 1. His friends and family have already used the footage to help change public policy in California, banning mile-long fishing nets in 2018. These films will ensure that Rob’s commitment to saving sharks from extinction and his legacy of conservation activism will continue to carry on.
Rob and his dive team had shot most of the footage before he died. His parents and partners have lovingly since completed the film. Yoga teacher, diver, conservationist, and filmmaker Brock Cahill is one of those filmmaking and diving partners.
The Destruction of Shark Hunting
Sharkwater Extinction is an homage to Rob, but also a reminder to the world that shark hunting is as destructive as ever. The size of the often-secretive shark fishing complex is astounding; it is a multi-billion-dollar industry. At least 150 million sharks are killed each year, even the endangered hammerheads.
Rob regularly risked his life, including being shot at, when capturing footage of shark slaughters in Panama, Costa Rica, South Africa, and even off the coast of California. It seems he exposed just the tip of the iceberg. Sharks, being the largest predators on earth, are key to the balance of our ecosystem. With their systematic decimation, what will become of our oceans?
The film reveals that shark meat is currently being disguised by renaming it and selling its byproducts for use in pet food, cosmetics, and livestock feed. It is sold under the guise of popular fish names for human consumption. As Rob says in the film, sharks (like dolphins) are at the top of the food chain in the ocean, and as such toxins compound in their bodies. It is not safe for anyone to eat shark meat.
Rob Stewart, Activist Filmmaker
Rob always lived on the edge as an activist filmmaker. He describes in the film how frequently he escaped death. Rob took chances not only with the sharks but also with the ruthless illegal and legal international shark fishing trade. Shark fins, the subject of his first film, have long been used as an ingredient in soup. To this day, they command a hefty price, as high as $200 per fin. Captured sharks are stripped of their fins and left to die. Rob’s efforts led to the banning of this practice in 90 countries. But that has not stopped the illegal trade.This film and Rob’s call-to-action will bring more attention, and hopefully inspire more change in laws and practices.
Rob died due to faulty oxygen calculations for new equipment that allowed him to go deeper in search of rare sharks. He did not die at the hands of sharks. Lost at sea, he was not even eaten by sharks, his body was recovered for an autopsy. In one quiet but mind-blowing scene in the film, Rob is underwater looking the other way when a shark bumps up against his hand. Rob instinctively, without looking, pets the eight-foot vilified and feared creature on the nose. He was a shark whisperer – the sharks seem to know that he is their savior.
See and Support Sharkwater Extinction
Sharkwater Extinction is a very moving tribute to Rob, and the film is as fluid, stoic, and dramatic as his life. Although sharks have a larger-than-life scary reputation, their populations need to be protected from consumerism and greed. Rob’s passions carry on today through his website: sharkwater.com.
See the film, spread the word, and support his conservationism. Start with the film’s trailer here; you will be stunned by it.
More Information about Rob Stewart and Sharkwater Initiatives
I talked to him at the screening of his film Revolution at Cannes Film Festival in 2013. That film details the impact on Earth’s future with existing environmental policies. It was clear that this handsome man’s entire being was singularly focused on his passion to conserve the world’s oceans. His grace and intelligence were almost ethereal, not of this world but of the sea.
We at LA YOGA had the privilege of meeting Rob Stewart in person.
Karen Henry is an Associate Editor at LA YOGA who volunteers in a variety of capacities for nonprofit organizations and artists around Los Angeles. She practices yoga as a counterbalance to her daily impact sports and is a mother of four grown children who also practice yoga . Now, she’s working on teaching yoga and joy of life to the grandkids!