Whale of a Time Interview with Robert Stewart
19 October 2012
Welcome Whale of a Time visitors watching Sharkwater.
Welcome Whale of a Time visitors and thank you for watching Sharkwater. Part of the battle is getting the message out there and by taking time to watch this film, you’re helping us do just that!
Out of all animals why did you chose sharks?
I have been fascinated with being underwater ever since I was a kid and when I was eight, I saw a Caribbean reef shark for the first time in the Cayman Islands. I was amazed to discover that the shark was actually more afraid of me than I was of it. I continued to spend as much time as I could underwater just to be able to be around sharks. A few years later, I ended up in the Galapagos Islands on a photography assignment and discovered that illegal fishing practices were being used to catch and kills sharks for their fins. It seemed as though no one cared, probably because everyone was afraid of them and no one realized it was happening. So, I made it my mission to try and educate people about these creatures that I’ve always loved. Sharkwater grew out of that desire to save them from extinction.
You took a huge risk, 5 years and you risked your life, what did it take to do this film?
This film took us over four years and through 12 countries to put together and there were definitely challenges along the way. We encountered some pretty terrifying obstacles but I wasn’t going to let any of that stop me from finishing what I started. It ended up paying off because we know people are listening. Sharkwater has won over 35 awards, changed laws, and started over 100 NGOs and charities to save sharks.
Tell us the most important thing that people should know about sharks and their importance to the ecosystem?
Sharks are absolutely extraordinary animals. They’ve existed for over 400 million years, which means they predate even the dinosaurs, and they’ve survived five major extinctions, having evolved into one of the most highly adapted creatures on earth. Because they’re the foremost underwater predators, they help shape marine ecosystems by controlling the populations of other marine life that are below them on the food chain.
What can people do to support shark conservation?
We’ve been so fortunate to have so many big names that are joining the fight to preserve shark populations. Gordon Ramsay, for instance, risked his life confronting a gang in Costa Rica that was trafficking illegal shark fins and Sir Richard Branson has openly praised Sharkwater for exposing him to the dark world of shark finning. Our next film, Revolution, takes it one step further and looks at how not only sharks, but our ecosystem and even humanity are in danger unless we take action now. Revolution took us four years and through 15 countries and audiences will be able to travel with us from the coral reefs in Papua New Guinea, to the deforestation project in Madagascar, to a destructive environmental project in Alberta. It’s not me telling you what I learned, but about you discovering it with me. It was an incredible journey for me and I can’t wait to share it with the world.
One of the biggest things you can do from home is help spread the word. Talk to your friends and family about Sharkwater and the issue of shark finning. At www.sharkwater.com/savesharks.php, there’s an email that you can send that explains it all. You can even host your own local Sharkwater screening in your city. Donations are also welcome at www.unitedconservationists.org or www.therevolutionmovie.com to help fund initiatives to make the planet fin free!
For filmmaker Rob Stewart, exploring sharks began as an underwater adventure. What it turned into was a beautiful and dangerous life journey into the balance of life on earth.
Driven by passion fed from a lifelong fascination with sharks, Stewart debunks historical stereotypes and media depictions of sharks as bloodthirsty, man-eating monsters and reveals the reality of sharks as pillars in the evolution of the seas.
Filmed in visually stunning, high definition video, Sharkwater takes you into the most shark rich waters of the world, exposing the exploitation and corruption surrounding the world's shark populations in the marine reserves of Cocos Island, Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
In an effort to protect sharks, Stewart teams up with renegade conservationist Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Their unbelievable adventure together starts with a battle between the Sea Shepherd and shark poachers in Guatemala, resulting in pirate boat rammings, gunboat chases, mafia espionage, corrupt court systems and attempted murder charges, forcing them to flee for their lives.
Through it all, Stewart discovers these magnificent creatures have gone from predator to prey, and how despite surviving the earth's history of mass extinctions, they could easily be wiped out within a few years due to human greed.
Stewart's remarkable journey of courage and determination changes from a mission to save the world's sharks, into a fight for his life, and that of humankind.