March 20, 2017
Continuing the Legacy of Sharkwater
Written By Kylie Barton
Sharkwater is an important documentary created by Rob Stewart, which aims to dismantle the harmful stereotype of the shark which is ultimately leading to its demise. It is with great sadness that the world learned at the beginning of February, the man who devoted his life to the conservation of sharks, and as a result created this beautifully moving film in 2006, perished at sea. With his death, it is important to revisit the lessons the 10 year old documentary gave us, and also to honour his legacy through the continuation of important conservation work.
The 37 year old filmmaker and marine biologist was found at sea, after he went missing on a scuba diving trip where he was working on the sequel to Sharkwater. His family are content in knowing he died doing what he loved, and they are already hard at work to ensure his life’s’ work is continued and built upon. His work was described as a ‘beautiful and dangerous journey into the balance of life on earth’ and his main mission was to pull apart the media portrayal of sharks and show them for the important, intelligent, staple of the seas they really are. He explored Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, Cocos Island, and Ecuador in the first film, and was working towards creating a sequel more than ten year on to re-evaluate the shark’s present threats in the world today.
For the first movie, Rob teamed up with Paul Watson from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The pair went through an incredibly journey together on which they faced poachers, pirates, guns, criminals, and corruption. It was a harrowing journey that gave the world a unique insight into the complexity of shark protection – the layers of corruption and the variety of agendas at play all leading various species of shark to the brink of extinction. Rob’s myth-busting mission starts in the movie with him hugging a shark, and various stats such as that more people are killed by elephants (creatures we see as relatively harmless compared to the shark). The shark has existed for millions of years, they predate the dinosaurs, and have survived five of earths mass extinction periods – yet now human ignorance and greed threatens to wipe them out within a matter of years.
Rob was a passionate conservationist, who fought fearlessly for the causes he believed in. We here at IS share this passion, therefore it permeates everything we do. We prioritise, in all our territories, to work towards the protection of sharks and their environments. Sharks are really important in maintaining the ecological balance in the ocean. Particularly – coral reefs. They help to regulate prolific species, which means sharks help maintain ecological diversity as well as balance and it is this diversity which is of pivotal importance to the health of the ocean’s reefs. The loss of sharks upsets the food chain and resultantly changes the makeup of the marine community leading to declines in other species and the proliferation of algae which suffocates reefs. As well as ecological benefits of shark population health, there are economic benefits of tourism – as sharks are a magnet for water loving travellers.
Since the film in 2006, environmental agencies have stepped up somewhat, and there are now many shark protection projects and NGOs across the globe. Sharks are becoming increasingly protected, in 2013 CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) protected the whitetip, hammerhead, and porbeagle sharks, however there is a fear that this is too little too late. Profit is still the biggest driver of change as stated in Sharkwater, and as long as there is still profit to be made through overfishing, and shark related delicacies, these beautiful creatures are still gravely at risk. This is why raising awareness, and taking part in conservation projects is more important than ever. As is finding local populations alternative revenue streams and trades.
This year here at Island Spirit we currently have three coral gardening projects planned on May 15th, June 12th and July 10th. Fiji was battered by Hurricane Winston a year ago and bleaching has been rife in the island reefs so they are in dire need of restoration and conservation. Work on the reefs has a direct and tangible effect on all of the marine life along the coastline of the beautiful island of Fiji. This includes many species of sharks that rely on the reef’s health for their own.
Help us continue the Legacy of the late great Rob Stewart, and come and experience first-hand conservation of the corals.