Wednesday, June 19 2019 (Toronto)…It’s been over a decade since award-winning filmmaker Rob Stewart first debuted Sharkwater (2007) to international audiences, bringing the issue of shark finning to the world stage and galvanizing a global movement to protect sharks. Today, with the historic passing of Bill C-68 banning the import and export of shark fins in Canada, Stewart’s powerful and substantial impact is being celebrated across the country.
Early on, Stewart worked closely with Senator Michael MacDonald and MP Fin Donnelly, to bring awareness to the shark fin trade and lobbied for necessary legislative action. Since Sharkwater first hit theatres in 2007, laws and public policies around the world have changed; many countries have banned shark finning; 19 Canadian municipalities have passed laws prohibiting the sale of shark products and many more municipalities have asked for federal legislation; since 2011, five federal bills and one provincial bill have been introduced to ban trade in shark fins. None have passed until now; and since that time, more than a billion sharks have been killed.
Canada will be the first G8 nation to pass federal legislation fully banning the import and export of shark fins. It is estimated that 100-150 million sharks are killed annually, largely for their fins and Canada has been a significant importer – the largest outside of Asia bringing in approximately 150,000 kg of shark fins in 2018 alone.
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard, stated: “There is no doubt that the illegal shark fin trade has had a devastating impact on global shark populations. In fact, over 63 million sharks are killed every year, many for the global shark fin trade. Bill C-68 responds to increasing public concern about the impact and the nature of the practice of shark finning that was generated thanks to the legacy of Rob Stewart and the Sharkwater Extinction film. I’m pleased to say that the Government of Canada shares these concerns regarding conservation and is stepping up and taking action to address this global issue.”
Senator Michael MacDonald who first championed a shark protection bill in the Senate, recently praised Stewart’s impact. “The government’s amendments to the Fisheries Act in C-68, is a huge win for the movement to protect sharks; full credit goes to all the organization and individuals across Canada who have been working tirelessly for the protection of sharks, and in particular to the late Canadian filmmaker and conservationist Rob Stewart and his family. Rob pioneered this movement – C-68 is in honour of him.”
In January 2017, while shooting his third and final film, Sharkwater Extinction, Stewart tragically died in a dive accident off the Florida Keys. His parents Brian and Sandy Stewart have dedicated themselves to continuing Rob’s mission, completing his film and establishing the Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation committed to raising awareness and inspiring the world to save sharks and protect the oceans.
On the passing of Bill C-68, the Stewarts said, “we are absolutely thrilled and grateful to the Canadian Government, Senator Michael MacDonald, MP Finn Donnelly and Minister Jonathan Wilkinson for their leadership and commitment to this historic legislation. Rob spent his life crusading for sharks; it took some time to get this done but he would be ecstatic today. We wish he was here to celebrate this victory but there is an army of shark defenders he inspired around the world rejoicing loudly for him. We spent the past year bringing Sharkwater Extinction to theatres around the world continuing Rob’s tireless pursuit to inspire and educate; he always believed that if people knew the truth, they would make better choices. This bill is an example of the kind of change Rob fought for every day and proof that we can and will continue to make a difference.”
Sharkwater Extinction (2018) is Stewart’s third film, following his multi award-winning Sharkwater (2007) and Revolution (2012). After a World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, it went on to rave reviews, screening at over 48 International Film Festivals and garnering 28 awards to date including:
Byron Bay Film Festival - Winner Best Environmental Film Award
FICMA, Barcelona – Winner Golden Sun Award for Best Feature Documentary
Napa Valley Film Festival - Special Recognition for Courageous Filmmaking
Fort Lauderdale Film Festival - Winner Best Documentary
Unstad Arctic Surf Film Festival - Winner Best Film
DC Environmental Film Festival - Winner Shared Earth Foundation Award for Advocacy
San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival –Winner Conservation Award
Sharkwater Extinction is available on Crave in Canada and on Amazon Prime throughout most of the world.
Interviews are available with Brian & Sandy Stewart
To learn more about The Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation
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About Rob Stewart & The Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation:
Rob Stewart was a biologist, conservationist, activist, and renowned filmmaker. His three internationally award-winning films, Sharkwater (2006), Revolution (2012), and Sharkwater Extinction (2018) garnered worldwide attention to issues effecting our oceans. Sharkwater brought the devastating practise of shark finning to the world stage. Revolution was the first feature film to expose the alarming effects that Ocean Acidification would bring: much worse than scientists had thought climate change would be. And in Sharkwater Extinction Rob reveals a shocking discovery; a billion dollar industry, shark is now widely showing up in every day products intended for human consumption.
Born in 1979 and raised in Toronto, Stewart graduated from Western University. He dedicated his life to conservation, saying: “Conservation is the preservation of human life on earth. And, that, above all else is worth fighting for.” He taught the world to love the oceans and their creatures and not fear sharks, through his iconic images of hugging and free diving with sharks and mantas.
The Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation was created to ensure that Rob’s mission to save the world’s sharks and oceans continues. The Foundation will work with leading shark and ocean conservation groups around the world, as well as top scientists, researchers and educational institutions. Among the organizations that have partnered or supported Rob Stewart’s work are Blue Sphere Media, Code Blue Foundation, CREMA, EarthSense Foundation, FinFree, Fins Attached, Hong Kong Shark Association, HSI, HSUS, LUSH Cosmetics, Mercy for Animals, Nakawe Project, Ocean Ark Alliance, Ocean Elders, Oceana, Pangea Seed, Pew Foundation, Project Aware, Project 0, Save Our Seas, The Sea Change Agency, Sea Legacy, Sea Shepherd, SharkAngels, SOS, Turtle Island Restoration, United Conservationists, Virgin Unite, Virgin Ocean Unite, WildAid and WWF.