This has not been a good week for the Canadian extreme sports and eco-community.
Last week we lost noted wing-suit extreme athlete Graham Dickinson. The word coming now is that the body of Rob Stewart, documentary film-maker, producer and director of Sharkwater, has been found off the Florida Keys.
He had been missing since Wednesday, when he was last seen coming up from a ‘difficult’ dive near a ship wreck off Islamorada. Conditions had not been good, but he and his three fellow divers all surfaced.
As the boat came about to pick him up, he went down again, and was not seen since.
This one stings.
Rob Stewart, Film Maker and Eco Warrior
Rob Stewart was a champion for sharks at a time when the ocean really needed one. He made Sharkwater in 2006 to document the plight of shark species across the globe, in large fault because of shark-finning – that horrible practice of pulling sharks out of the ocean, hacking their fins off, and throwing them back in the water to die a slow death.
Sharkwater shows this practice up close, graphically. It will break your heart, and seems all the more pointless when you consider the demand for shark-fins is simply to add flavour to shark-fin soup.
In a way, you could say he was a real Ono Ozaki Eco Warrior. He was targeted, threatened, and almost lost his life to make this watershed movie.
That’s what it means to be an eco-warrior – you have to be willing to give up your life. Rob Stewart died while filming a follow-up to Sharkwater, tentatively titled Sharkwater Extinction. He was 37, and was a major force behind shark conservation and how folks look at these creatures just 10 years later.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Rob Stewart saved a billion sharks through Sharkwater and his subsequent efforts to get folks involved with shark conservation.
Now it’s Our Turn To Help Sharks
I spoke with Rob once. It was in response to a private message that I sent to him on Twitter after I thanked him for following me back in 2010. Given the circumstances, I think it’s the right time to share it with you.
He said “Lead, follow, or step aside. Together we’ll help save humanity.”
Now it’s our turn to help sharks, the ocean they sustain, and the planet they protect. Let’s start by helping shark conservation. These shark conservation groups all do good work to educate folks about sharks and the essential role they play in protecting our oceans. They also spread the word about shark-fin soup, and offer shark-friendly alternatives to this devastating ritual.
Shark Truth – Based in Vancouver, Shark Truth is a cross-cultural program that gets the message out among Canada’s Asia Pacific population. They promote fin-free wedding ceremonies, and help devise fun and practical alternatives to shark-fin soup.
Shark Angels – Rob Stewart was especially active with Shark Angels and I suspect he’d be very proud to see you help with their ‘shark adoption’ programs, educational tools and grassroots efforts to save the world’s sharks.
Sea Shepherd Society – If you really want to go full Ono Ozaki, the Sea Shepherd Society may be of interest. Be warned, they believe in a hard and direct approach to helping the ocean. They’ve been threatened and thrown in jail, among other things. But the Sea Shepherd Society has a place, and features prominently in Sharkwater.
Sharks need people who aren’t afraid to get in the trenches. If you’re one of them, you can learn more about the Sea Shepherd Society at this link.
Rob Stewart has left us, but his movement has only begun. It’s our turn now to pick up his torch, and fight to protect our planet – our home.
Much love Rob.