Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category


Students talk about Sharkwater (75 Comments)

Thank you to Noah Doughty, Biology teacher at Mission College Preparatory who sent us the following letter and comments:

To Rob Stewart and all the others involved with the SHARKWATER film, website and related projects
I recently showed the movie Sharkwater in my biology classes and my students were greatly impressed with the movie and wanted to find out more. As a follow up assignment I asked the students to email me with their comments and questions after watching the movie. I’ve left spelling and grammar unchanged. I realize that you are busy and probably do not have time to reply to all, but we did want to send you the message that the movie was watched, awareness was raised, and many of the students want to know how they can help.
Thank you for such an amazing film,
Noah Doughty
Biology Teacher
Mission College Preparatory

Latest Interview! (18 Comments)

Dear Rob,

I hope you’re doing fine and everything is great in L.A.

I have some questions from a journalists of ivy online magazine www.ivyworld.de (their motto: “for a better world”). Can you please answer them (or some of them) and send it back to me?

1. How long did it take to produce Sharkwater?
– 5 years and 15 countries.

2. First you wanted to shoot a film just about sharks. That changed why?

When I started out making Sharkwater, it was supposed to be a beautiful underwater movie about sharks, giving people the reality: the anti-jaws that brings people closer to sharks than ever before.
I figured if I could make a film that gave people a new view of sharks, counter to Jaws, then perhaps they’d want to fight for their protection as they would for pandas, elephants and bears.
As you see in the film, everything changed dramatically when we started filming ourselves to keep ourselves out of prison, and the movie evolved into a much larger movie full of corruption, espionage, attempted murder, hospitalizations, mafia and machine guns…
The film grew greatly into a new breed of film, blending a true-life action with a shark film about the survival of humans as a species.

3. Describe the ups and downs of making the film.

The creation of Sharkwater was a series of worst case scenarios. The lowest low was when I was hospitalized for flesh eating disease. The doctors were talking about removing my leg, and we were 3 weeks into shooting a shark film and had no shark footage. Everyone told me I should return home for proper medical care. My girlfriend and parents were upset, my crew was freaking… I had to turn into captain positive to keep people from flying me home… If I went home, the film would have never been finished because it was such a colossal failure that it would have been shelved. The expensive cameras would have been returned to the rental houses, and once freed from the hospital, I wouldn’t have been able to return to South America to film because of the huge financial hole that I was in. This was my one shot at making a difference and my first foray into filmmaking. I couldn’t accept that my effort to make a difference and to get into filmmaking was a failure.
The film also had a huge potential to do good…. To change the way people view sharks so they would fight for their protection, ultimately saving the oceans and humanity from destroying the ecosystems upon which they depend. Knowing this, there was no way I could give up.

Another hugely difficult part of the 5 years and 15 countries that it took to create Sharkwater was convincing people to believe in me, and the project. I started Sharkwater when I was 22 years old. I had no film experience, I’d never shot a video camera, and I had no film allies. I was a total long shot. When I came back from the initial shoot where I tried to make a beautiful underwater shark film, I had no underwater footage, but I had corruption, espionage, mafia chases, machine guns, and hospitalizations. I was also $300,000 in debt. I went to every relevant film festival to pitch the film and gain support to finish Sharkwater. I also had Dengue Fever, West Nile Virus, and Tuberculosis. After a year of this painful process, I was turned down by every broadcaster and distributor. I actually gave up on Sharkwater, and went to shoot a starfish movie for a friend of mine in Australia. Only after I’d been shooting in Australia for a year, having time to heal, reflect and shoot more footage did I realize that I had the missing pieces to Sharkwater. These supposed failures turned Sharkwater into something much greater than it would have been if I succeeded in getting the film on TV a year earlier.

4. Have your life been in danger while shooting the film? Why?

A half dozen times. We were shot at, chased by the mafia, I almost lost my leg to flesh eating disease, I had dengue fever, west Nile virus, and tuberculosis all at the same time. I was also lost, floating in the Pacific ocean for half a day when I surfaced from a dive 2 kilometers from my boat.

Everything going catastrophically wrong during shooting turned out to be a beautiful thing, as all the events became part of the movie. They gave Sharkwater what documentaries so often lack – a story, and a personal narrative. Doc’s often feel like taking medicine… you know you’re in for an ordeal that’s not necessarily pleasant… Its easier for people to come onto the crazy journey of the long shot – the 22 year old kid who’s trying to make a shark film – and come out the other side armed with the info necessary for the world to change.

5. Describe your relationship with Paul Watson.

Paul has become a close friend and ally. There aren’t many people working for the preservation of the oceans, particularly ones that put their life on the line for it. Paul is a hero, and I’m sure we’ll continue to work together.

6. What kind of person is he?

Paul is an eco hero. He’s the most outspoken and radical warrior in the most important battle humans have ever faced. He moves forward unshakably, and will be thought of as a revolutionary for centuries.

7. Your main message is that sharks are shy creatures. How is it that other documentaries capture such savage footage of them?

Every time you see a shark cage on TV, there is someone outside of the cage filming the cage. Shark documentaries mostly misrepresent sharks, making audiences think that they attack every camera, boat and cage in the water. People drag large pieces of fish or bait through the water, just in front of the shark, getting the shark to bite at the bait, eventually bringing the shark close to the camera to get dramatic footage. This is the standard for shark documentaries, and it’s atrocious. We spent 200 days a year outside of cages filming Sharkwater without a problem.

8. How hopeful are you that people will stop killing sharks for their fins?

More than 75% of the people surveyed on the ground in China don’t know that shark fin soup has shark in it because the translation literally means fish wing soup. I believe enough in the compassion of people towards species and future generations of people that awareness will create a huge change.
People can’t see what happens in the oceans, so what is out of sight is out of mind. We waste 54 billion pounds of fish each year while 8 million people die of starvation. 90% of all large predators in the ocean are gone and every fishery will have entirely collapsed by 2048. If the public knew that we depend on the oceans for survival, yet we’re destroying them every day in unprecedented ways, they would take a stand, just as they spoke out for whales and for holes in the ozone layer.

8. Are the sharks still alive when they got cut? And even when they were thrown back into water?

Some sharks are still alive when they are finned. These finned sharks can take days to die when thrown back into the ocean. Finning is a horrible practice that wastes 95% of the animal. It’s like killing an elephant for ivory or a rhino for its horns.

10. If there wouldnt’t be any sharks no more. What kind of consequences would that bring for the oceans?

Sharks sit atop oceanic food chains, controlling the populations of animals below them as they have for over 400 million years. Life on earth depends on life in the sea, which sits below sharks in the food chain. Phytoplankton (tiny plants) are the greatest consumer of carbon dioxide (global warming gas) on earth, turning it into oxygen, providing us with 70% of the oxygen we breathe. Removing sharks is cutting off the head of the most important ecosystem for our own survival. The biggest issue in any global warming debate is life in the oceans that allows life on land to exist, yet it’s never spoken of… all we hear about is industry and carbon footprints.
We know relatively little about the removal of large predators from ecosystems as we’ve traditionally eaten animals at lower levels – the herbivores.
One example is the sea otter, which was hunted virtually to extinction off the west coast of North America for the fur trade. The otter’s food population, sea urchins, exploded in numbers. Those urchins ate all the Pacific kelp (huge seaweed that form an underwater forest). Without the kelp, the Pacific herring (sardine like fish) had no breeding grounds, and without the herring, there were no sharks, sea lions, salmon, tuna, dolphins or whales. The ecosystems collapsed all from removing the sea otter, which as a species has only been shaping ecosystems for 7 million years.
What we’re doing with sharks is removing an animal that has been sitting atop of oceanic ecosystems for over 400 million years, and the ecosystems that will be affected include our own – the very air that we breathe.
So, the worst-case scenario – we cause catastrophic consequences through ecosystems that result in a great number of species’ extinction, including our own.

Best regards,
Rob

Rob’s Latest Interview (3 Comments)

QUESTIONS FOR ROB STEWART

There are plenty of cute cuddly animals for a kid to be fascinated with. What was it about sharks that hooked you?

My parents got me a pet goldfish when I was about 1, and from that point on I was hooked. The oceans were the lost world, the last unknown realm full of creatures, monsters, and fantastic adventure.
I read every book on the ocean, fish, reptiles, and dinosaurs. As a kid, sharks were the last dragons and dinosaurs we have on the planet. People knew so little about them and most were afraid of them. I met my first shark when I was nine, and instead of biting me, the shark swam away in fear. This made me wonder why it didn’t’ want to hurt me, furthering my fascination.
As I studied sharks I learned the significance and difference of sharks on earth. They have survived for over 400 million years, predating the dinosaurs by 150 million years. Sharks have seen life on earth rebuild 5 times. They have two more senses than people. As a group of species and as an influence on the planet, sharks are absolutely unique.

I’ve often thought the life aquatic resembled an underwater ballet, a kind of symphony of sorts. The film really captures that. It’s beautifully shot, but you’d reportedly never handled a video camera before. How difficult was it to transition from still photography to video for you?

Funnily enough, this was the only thing I was sure that I could do – come back with pretty pictures! I’ve always been such a huge fan of beauty, and using visual mediums such as photography and motion pictures allows me to find unique ways of portraying something that is already so outstanding… A way of portraying the subject that shows their majesty, fragility, personality, and grace. One that hopefully sucks the viewer into a world where they’re compassion forces them to care.

You went though a lot during filming. Attempted murder charges, men with guns, flesh-eating disease… Was there ever a time when you thought, screw the sharks, I’ve got the save myself?

The creation of Sharkwater was a series of worst case scenarios. The lowest low was when I was hospitalized for flesh eating disease. They were talking about removing my leg, and we were 3 weeks into shooting a shark film and had no shark footage. Everyone told me I should return home for proper medical care. My girlfriend and parents were upset, my crew was freaking… I had to turn into captain positive to keep people from flying me home… If I went home, the film would have never been finished because it was such a colossal failure that it would have been shelved. The expensive cameras would have been returned to the rental houses, and once freed from the hospital, I wouldn’t have been able to return to South America to film because of the huge financial hole I’d dug myself into. This was my one shot at making a difference and my first foray into filmmaking. I couldn’t accept that my effort to make a difference and to get into filmmaking was a failure.
The film also had a huge potential to do good…. To change the way people view sharks so they would fight for their protection, ultimately saving the oceans and humanity from destroying the ecosystems upon which they depend. Knowing this, there was no way I could give up.

The media is famous for fear-mongering, and its treatment of sharks, historically, has been no different. With that in mind, do you think this documentary would have been as compelling, had it just been pretty pictures of sharks, and no human drama on the surface?

No. Everything going catastrophically wrong during shooting turned out to be a beautiful thing, as all the events became part of the movie. They gave Sharkwater what documentaries so often lack – a story, and a personal narrative. Doc’s often feel like taking medicine… you know you’re in for an ordeal that’s not necessarily pleasant… Its easier for people to come onto the crazy journey of the long shot – the 22 year old kid who’s trying to make a shark film – and come out the other side armed with the info necessary for the world to change.

What’s a worst-case scenario if sharks get fished-out?
Sharks sit atop oceanic food chains, controlling the populations of animals below them as they have for over 400 million years. Life on earth depends on life in the sea which sits below sharks in the food chain. Phytoplankton (tiny plants) are the greatest consumer of carbon dioxide (global warming gas) on earth, turning it into oxygen, providing us with 70% of the oxygen we breathe. Removing sharks is cutting off the head of the most important ecosystem for our own survival. The biggest issue in any global warming debate is life in the oceans that allows life on land to exist, yet it’s never spoken of… all we hear about is industry and carbon footprints.
We know relatively little about the removal of large predators from ecosystems as we’ve traditionally eaten animals at lower levels – the herbivores.
One example is the sea otter, which was hunted virtually to extinction off the west coast of North America for the fur trade. The otter’s food population, sea urchins, exploded in numbers. Those urchins ate all the Pacific kelp (huge seaweed that form an underwater forest). Without the kelp, the Pacific herring (sardine like fish) had no breeding grounds, and without the herring, there were no sharks, sea lions, salmon, tuna, dolphins or whales. The ecosystems collapsed all from removing the sea otter, which as a species has only been shaping ecosystems for 7 million years.
What we’re doing with sharks is removing an animal that has been sitting atop of oceanic ecosystems for over 400 million years, and the ecosystems that will be affected include our own – the very air that we breathe.
So, the worst-case scenario – we cause catastrophic consequences through ecosystems that result in a great number of species’ extinction, including our own.

How prevalent is shark-finning in the world? Who are the worst offenders?

Shark finning is happening in every country with a coastline. Finning is happening even in modern western nations only with more finesse than in the developing world. The demand comes from Asia, mainly China and Hong Kong. A couple huge shark finning nations are Spain and Indonesia.

My girlfriend and I immediately joined savethesharks.com when the film finished. Like a lot of people, we had no idea this stuff was happening. What were your goals for the film when you started out making it?

When I started out making Sharkwater, it was supposed to be a beautiful underwater movie about sharks, giving people the reality: the anti-jaws, bringing people closer to sharks than ever before.
I figured if I could make a film that gave people a new view of sharks, counter to Jaws, then perhaps they’d want to fight for their protection as they would for pandas, elephants and bears. I thought I’d be in it for 3-6 months, and get to choose at the end whether I’d like to be a photographer or a filmmaker…..
As you see in the film, everything changed when we started filming ourselves to keep ourselves out of prison, and the movie changed dramatically….
It evolved into a much larger movie about that survival of humans.
Ironically, the most difficult part of making Sharkwater was convincing people to believe in me, and the project. I started Sharkwater when I was 22 years old. I had no film experience, I’d never shot a video camera, and I had no film allies. I was a total long shot. When I came back from the initial shoot where I tried to make a beautiful underwater shark film, I had no underwater footage, but I had corruption, espionage, mafia chases, machine guns, and hospitalizations. I was also $300,000 in the hole. I went to every relevant film festival to pitch the film and gain support to finish Sharkwater. I also had Dengue Fever, West Nile Virus, and Tuberculosis. After a year of this painful process, I was turned down by every broadcaster and distributor. I actually gave up on Sharkwater, and went to shoot a starfish movie for a friend of mine in Australia. Only after I’d been shooting in Australia for a year, having time to heal, reflect and shoot more footage did I realize that I had the missing pieces to Sharkwater. These supposed failures turned Sharkwater into something much greater than it would have been if I succeeded in getting the film finished years earlier.

It’s been a while since the film first had its theatrical release. Have you seen any positive changes towards sharks since then?

5 days into the film’s release in Costa Rica, all international landings of sharks were banned. 6 conservation groups have been created by people moved by seeing sharkwater. (ex – sharksavers.org). A 15 year old girl threw a fundraiser for sharks raising 10K for shark conservation. Great things are happening, but the biggest issue facing the oceans today is awareness, and we need more people talking about the issue and everything will change.

You’ve done hundreds of interviews around the world since releasing this film. How has your life changed?

Well, instead of traveling most of the year to film in remote areas, I’m traveling most of the year promoting the film! I’m on a bit of a crazy tour through Europe, full of interviews, lectures, festivals and parties… Sometimes I talk 8 hours a day… It’s so much fun, but all a bit exhausting… We’re a very small crew, all wearing multiple hats, so I’m very much a reluctant business man these days as well… I’m 6 years into this film now, having never really left the near vertical learning curve… only now I’m learning the business side, and when to put myself and my happiness first… I am really excited to divorce my blackberry and return to the third world… and to film making!!!

What’s next for you? More films?

The most important thing is making conservation cool and accessible to everyone. There’s nothing cooler than saving species instead of destroying them… than perpetuating human life instead of limiting it. Conservation is cool, we’re just trying to repackage it so everyone is on board.
Sharkwater made me into a filmmaker, and through the process I made the most important film I knew of. Knowing the power of film to make a difference, I have to make the most important film I know of now, so I’m making a film about how humans are going to survive the next 100 years.
Based on our resource usage, it’s estimated that we would need 6 planet earths to sustain life. We waste 54 billion pounds of fish each year while 8 million people die of starvation. 90% of all large predators in the oceans are gone, and in the next 40 years every fishery will have collapsed, and a few billion people will be underwater.
Our relationship with the natural world is not working. We as a species haven’t realized that life depends on life. Conservation is the most important issue humanity has ever faced, as it is the preservation of human life on earth. Ecosystems and species will be fine as they have been for millions of years.
Sharks survived 5 major extinctions, watching life on earth rebuild 5 times. Sharks will be fine, it’s whether humans will survive, and how many future generations will live in lack, starvation and crisis because of our failure to wake up in time.
This next film points to cultural evolutions of the past: the end of slavery, women gaining rights, etc – to show and hopefully inspire the kind of revolution necessary for ensure humans survive on earth.

New Interview with Rob (13 Comments)

This is an interview from a mag in California.

1) Where are you from?
Toronto, but I spent a lot of time growing up in the Caribbean and Florida.

2) Have you always loved the oceans and the water?
Yes. My parents got me a pet goldfish when I was about 1, and from that point on I was hooked. The oceans were the lost world, the last unknown realm full of creatures, monsters, and fantastic adventure.

3) You have always loved sharks since childhood, what caused the affinity?
I read every book on the ocean, fish, reptiles, dinosaurs. As a kid, sharks were the last dragons and dinosaurs we have on the planet. People knew so little about them, were afraid of them and as a little boy that furthered my fascination.

4) Did your love for sharks diminish after the makings of movies such as Jaws?
Jaws created a charge within me. I loved the ocean so much, but was afraid when I thought about sharks and engaged my brain in the thought around the fear. When I wasn’t thinking about it the oceans were beautiful and engaging. When I heard that jaws theme song, the ocean became terrifying. I had to overcome the fear to stay in the realm that I loved the most. Discovering that sharks weren’t mindless predators out to get me was liberating and life changing.

5) During childhood, did you have any inclination that you would be where you are today?
Yes. I knew my life would have to be deeply involved with the ocean. I thought I’d become a marine biologist, but quickly became disinterested in beakers and labs. Then I became a scuba instructor, and found myself spending too much time in pools and classrooms. I have loved photography since my parents gave me my first underwater camera when I was 13. I photographed my pets, any animals I could find. I figured with 6 billion people on the planet, someone has to be an underwater photographer, and I went for it with everything I had. I could have never anticipated the 5 year adventure that became Sharkwater, but I always knew my life would be interesting.

5) You seem to have an impeccable knowledge of sharks, did you study sharks intensively in school?
Yes. After studying zoology and animal behavior in Canada, I studied sharks at universities in Kenya and Jamaica. I also read every book on sharks and the oceans (and most other animals) as a child and try to keep up to date as an adult!

6) How long have you been diving for?
16 years. I was certified when I was 13 (the minimum age at the time) but actually convinced people to take me diving when I was 11 in mexico.

7) At what point in your life did you decide to take such a leap of faith and create this movie?
I had spent 8 months working with print media trying to get the word out that sharks were being wiped out. I had set up a fund with the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galapagos so that people reading the articles could donate directly to put patrol boats in the Galapagos to protect against poaching. We received very few donations, and I realized that people didn’t care that sharks were being wiped out because they were afraid of them. I figured if I could make a film that gave people a new view of sharks, counter to Jaws, then perhaps they’d want to fight for their protection as they would for pandas, elephants and bears. I thought I’d be in it for 3-6 months, and get to choose at the end wether I’d like to be a photographer or a filmmaker….. after 5 years and numerous near deaths, I’ve learned more than I could have ever imagined, and am more energized than ever about making films that change our perception of the natural world. I want to make conservation cool.

8) Within the 5 years of filming Sharkwater, did you notice any significant changes in our oceans due to global warming and overfishing?
Yes. It’s absolutely amazing how small the oceans become when you start to recognize the same animals year after year. Some areas that once had abundant fish populations and healthy reefs, now have very little life. Much of the world’s mandate is to extract as efficiently as possible. Profit is king, and there are no long term thoughts regarding the sustainability of the fishery. Reef bombing for example, uses bombs created with diesel fuel and fertilizer. They immobilize and kill the fish, but also flatten the reef and destroy the whole ecosystem. This happens all over the world, and so few people know about it because what happens in the oceans is out of sigh and out of mind. The most important issue facing the oceans is changing that. If the world knew that we waste 54 billion pounds of fish each year while 8 million people die of starvation; that every fishery will have collapsed by 2048; that 90% of all ocean going large predators are gone, everything could change in an instant just as it has changed for whales, and for holes in our ozone layer.

9) How do you feel about our earth changing so drastically? & do you think the overfishing and finning of sharks has a significant part in these changes?
I think we’re impacting the world in ways far beyond our ability to comprehend. The earth and human’s presence on it is the result of billions of years of evolutionary complexity that by chance, culminated in a species with the power to wipe themselves off the planet, or learn to live in balance. We can’t possibly comprehend the ecosystems, the layers, and the impacts of our presence here…. so often shown by disasters such as the holes in the ozone layer, ddt, global warming, etc. What we’re not really taking into account is the importance of LIFE. The reason there is life on land is because there was and is life in the oceans to support it. One billion years ago the planet held an incredibly hot carbon filled atmosphere, with no life on land. Because of the miracle of life, plants evolved in the ocean, and started sequestering carbon dioxide, and releasing oxygen. The new atmosphere caused the planet to cool, and life made the move to land. This relationship still exists today. 70% of the oxygen we breathe comes from life in the oceans which sits below sharks in the food chain. That very same life consumes more carbon dioxide (global warming gas) than anything else on earth. We know relatively little about the removal of large predators from ecosystems as we’ve traditionally eaten animals at lower levels – the herbivores.
One example is the sea otter, which was hunted virtually to extinction off the west coast of North America for the fur trade. The otter’s food population, sea urchins, exploded in numbers. Those urchins ate all the Pacific kelp (huge seaweed that form an underwater forest). Without the kelp, the Pacific herring (sardine like fish) had no breeding grounds, and without the herring, there were no sharks, sea lions, salmon, tuna, dolphins or whales. The ecosystems collapsed all from removing the sea otter, which as a species has only been shaping ecosystems for 7 million years.
What we’re doing with sharks now is removing an animal that has been sitting atop of oceanic ecosystems for over 400 million years, and the ecosystems that will be affected include our own.

10) What advice do you have for first time divers and conservationists who want to follow your footsteps and make a difference in this world?

Take the first step. Get out there and make a difference any way you know how. Everyone has the power to change the world. History has been shaped by passionate individuals, and this movement even more so requires individuals to take a stand. There are innumerable ways to help, and most conservation groups and movements are understaffed and underfunded (ourselves included!). People should use their talents to effect change. If you’re good at web design, design websites to engage and interlink conservationists. If you’re a filmmaker, make films. etc.
Its easy to get involved, it feels good, and it brings people together. There’s a certain majesty in our time right now. We’re a generation that’s seen such huge advances in technology and what’s possible for humans. We’re also the generation that WILL decide to come together, change priorities, and step up like never before to ensure our own species survival. We’ve spent a couple thousand years building economies, industry and systems at the expense of the natural world, and inevitably ourselves. We have 6 billion people on the planet that if working together, could accomplish anything. It’s my hope and mission that they unite to ensure our own survival on this planet. A planet so special that it’s the only one amongst billions that holds life. That life is worth fighting for.

An Email Interview (4 Comments)

1) Blood thirsty Man Eater is the common perception for what a shark is – through your documentary, how did you persuade the audience, in why they should change their misconception about sharks? Do you blame the film Jaws for all these wrong ideas about the SHARK!

Sharks have been portrayed as monsters for as long as the media has referred to them. The word Shark comes from the Anglo Saxon words “villain” and “cut”, demonstrating how poorly sharks have been set up in our minds. A fraction of the planet has the opportunity to go underwater and experience the ocean, so a public that largely fears sharks is wholly logical considering the media’s portrayal of them. A dangerous “man eater” sells more “shark attack” headlines than the reality…. usually that a shark bit a human, realized it’s mistake, and let go. Films like Jaws united the public even further with a wholly false view of sharks – that they’re out there hunting man.
In Sharkwater, we use simple facts – that a mere 5 people are killed by sharks each year for example, that flesh is very rarely removed in shark bites, and that if sharks were predators of people, the oceans would be a very very dangerous place. We also show a totally new relationship with sharks, portraying the reality of sharks as beautiful creatures that are pinnacles in the evolution of the seas. You have to see Sharkwater to truly understand it.

2) What have you found out regarding why are sharks being killed left and right?

Sharks are being killed largely to fuel the growing demand for shark fin soup in Asia. Shark fin soup is a status symbol, served as a sign of respect and a symbol of wealth. When China began wide scale trade with the rest of the world in the late 80’s, the opportunity to consume shark fin soup opened up to hundreds of millions of people, resulting in the price of fins skyrocketing to between $200-400 USD per pound. The word is now out that shark fins mean money, and humans now kill 100 million sharks a year to fuel the demand for fins. Many of these sharks are finned – where their fins are cut off the dying shark and its body is discarded, wasting over 95% of the animal. It’s like killing an elephant for ivory or a rhinoceros for its horn, and because of this, shark populations have dropped 90% in the last 30 years.

3) Sharks have become prey to shark poachers. It looks awful and sad. I’m sure this has caused some sort of imbalance of the ecology?

Sharks sit atop oceanic food chains, controlling the populations of animals below them as they have for over 400 million years. Life on earth depends on life in the sea which sits below sharks in the food chain. Phytoplankton (tiny plants) are the greatest consumer of carbon dioxide (global warming gas) on earth, turning it into oxygen, providing us with 70% of the oxygen we breathe. Removing sharks is cutting off the head of the most important ecosystem for our own survival on earth. The biggest issue in any global warming debate is life in the oceans that allows life on land to exist, yet it’s never spoken of… all we hear about is industry and carbon footprints.

4) Your film has shown yourself and organizations that have started to help protect the shark population. Pls explain what are the different efforts being done?

There are organizations protecting sharks on every front. Organizations like Sea Shepherd enforce conservation law on the high seas, and draw attention to the issues. Wildaid is working in Asia with celebrities such as Yao Ming, Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh to promote shark fin soup becoming a tacky dish. The Ocean Conservancy and Ocean are working to garner new regulations for shark fisheries, and international protection. The Shark Research Institute is conducting and supporting research proving the importance of sharks to ecosystems, and gaining knowledge necessary for protection. Our company, Diatribe Pictures is using the most powerful media forms in the world to bring these issues to light. If 10-15% of the world knew that shark populations have dropped 90% in the last 30 years, that we waste 54 billion pounds of fish each year while 8 million people die of starvation, that every single fishery will be gone by 2048, and that we need 6 planet earths to sustain life….. everything could be turned around just as it has for whales and holes in the ozone layer. Bringing people these messages is difficult, that’s why we’re making intelligent, engaging, funny and moving films and series, so people would watch them for entertainment even if they weren’t learning something in the process. We’re trying to make conservation cool.

5) You, as a filmmaker, have put yourself on the line as filming under is a dangerous endeavor? What precautionary measures did you and your crew to ensure that an accident like what happened to Steve Irwin could not happen to you guys?

Filming underwater was actually the safest part of making Sharkwater. We filmed underwater 200 days a year for 4 years while making Sharkwater without incident. I’ve spent thousands of hours underwater without issue…. I’ve been stung by all sorts of things underwater, but they’re all pretty mild. I’m a scuba instructor trainer, so I teach all of our crew how to use rebreathers, diving with mixed gasses, and diving deeper and longer than recreational divers can.
On land while making Sharkwater though, we were shot at, charged with attempted murder, chased by the coast guard, the mafia… and I was hospitalized a couple times. One for flesh eating disease, and another for Dengue Fever, West Nile Virus and Tuberculosis all at the same time.

6) Can you describe to us the technical aspects of how you shot this film? Are there special equipments that you emply to finish this project?

We shot Sharkwater in High Definition, starting very early on in HD. We used many different housings to take the cameras underwater, some we built, and others built by companies specializing in underwater housings. We also used rebreathers, which are apparatuses that recirculate the air that you breathe so you don’t make bubbles underwater. Many animals, especially sharks, are afraid of bubbles.

7) I know that sharks have been killed as medicine or as delicacy or as a promising homeopathic cancer treatment… what has been done around the world in not overharvesting sharks to extinction?

People have erroneously believed sharks to hold some magical properties because they are large powerful and resilliant animals. The consumption of sharks has never been proven to do anything beneficial. These beliefs are of the same variety that believe that because rhino’s have horns, if you eat rhino horn, your horn will grow. Sharks have been over-harvested in every ocean, and very little has been done to protect them.

8) Have you shown this film to marine biologists, Shark poachers, the academe, politicians …. and what were their reactions?

Yes. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The Canadian environment minister decided to champion sharks, academics and shark biologists are excited that someone has finally brought this issue to light. We’ll see what shark poachers have to say.

9) What can the audience do to protect the shark from being extinct?

The audience can encourage others to see Sharkwater. As long as the issue remains in the dark, there will be no protection for sharks and the ocean. The oceans are in deep trouble, which inherently means we’re in deep trouble as well. Awakening the public to the plight of the oceans is our only hope to gain protection. Some shark species have dropped as much as 99%, yet they’re not protected because the public doesn’t know.

10) Because the shark is not as cute and charismatic like the dolphin, have you found difficulty in persuading some of the audience in participating in shark protection movements?

Once people see Sharkwater, they have a new view of sharks, and garnering their support is much easier. The ecological significance of loosing sharks far outweighs any cute factor as our own existence hangs in that balance.

11) What is the future of the shark as far as you know? Is there hope in the near future or does it look bleak?

There is hope in humanity. In a species so highly evolved that it can destroy the natural world upon which it depends, or evolve and live in balance with it. We are the hope, and our ability to have compassion for future generations of humans is what can bring us out of this. Sharks have been on the planet for over 400 million years, surviving 5 major extinctions that wiped 95% of life from this planet. We’re now causing the extinction of more species than have gone extinct in the last 65 million years. We’re now in the midst of another major extinction, yet the planet, and sharks in general will be fine. There is 2.5 billion years of life on earth, and sharks in the deepest darkest trenches of the ocean far out of reach of humans. The only question now is how many future generations of humans will live in lack and starvation and crisis because we’ve failed to wake up in time. Now, our survival is in jeopardy.

12) Has global warming affected the shark population and their activity?

Some sharks are now extinct from many areas. Much of the Caribbean is devoid of sharks thought to be because of increasing fishing and water temperatures. Any change in the environment will affect species, some adversely, and some positively. The problem with humans is how brief our existence on this planet is….. we simply don’t know what will happen as a result of our impact on the planet.

13) What is next for Rob Stewart as a filmmaker and in your pursuit in protecting the shark of the world?

The most important thing is making conservation cool and accessible to everyone. There’s nothing cooler than saving species instead of destroying them… than perpetuating human life instead of limiting it. Conservation is cool, we’re just trying to repackage it so everyone is on board. To do that we’re using the media.

14) Do you have any advice to future documentary filmmakers in how to pursue their careers?

Get out there and make movies. Cameras are cheap, audio is available online and you can edit from a laptop. There are phenomenally important stories that need to be told. Stories that if told can eliminate suffering, destruction, hate and fear. Stories that can bring beauty, life and happiness. Read every book there is on story and script writing. This is the most powerful medium to effect change. Jump in with everything you have, get in over your head, learn, teach, manifest, grow, soften, have fun and let the experience change you as a human being.

I’m thinking of going to Costa Rica… whaddya think? (11 Comments)

So, we’ve got one of the biggest motion picture distributors in Costa Rica distributing Sharkwater in a big way.
They want me there for the PR tour, for interviews, for talks, and to push the film and the movement. The government will give me bodyguards (mafia) though I’m not entirely sure they won’t arrest me. They really want me there, and for once, we have some power in Costa Rica to make a change and force the issue into the spotlight.
My parents really really really don’t want me to go….
But a big part of me wants to go back.
What do you think?