Earlier this month, Sharkwater Extinction was streamed across the world in honor of World Environment Day on June 5, 2020. This is thanks to a collaboration between Cine-ONU Brussels, Vienna and Geneva, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Geneva Environment Network.
In addition to the screening, two of the film’s producers — Sandy Campbell and Brian Stewart — were joined by wildlife experts from across the world, including Jessica Battle, Senior Global Ocean Governance and Policy Expert at WWF; Susan Gardner, Director of the Ecosystems Division at UNEP; and Tom De Meulenaer, Chief of the Secretariat’s Scientific Services Team at CITES for a discussion about the film and the issues surrounding oceanic biodiversity loss.
The panel began with a conversation about sharks and the species’ reputation of being monsters. This reputation is a huge issue when it comes to conservation efforts, but that’s exactly the reason why Rob Stewart wanted to make the film.
“You can’t protect something if you don’t see the beauty and that’s what Rob tried to do,” said Sandy Campbell.
Jessica Battle called sharks “a powerful symbol of conservation, nature and the ocean” but because of iconic films like Jaws, sharks have this negative reputation around the world. “There is this Jaws fear that a lot of people still harbor and films like Sharkwater Extinction show another side of sharks, I really appreciated that,” she says.
All of the panelists agreed the situation for sharks within our oceans has reached a critical point. More than 150 million sharks are killed every year for the shark finning industry. This has a critical impact on not only the shark and other fish species but also on local communities.
“The overfishing of sharks allows fish to travel further out to sea where fishing boats can’t go, they can’t afford the gas. This results in a lack of income and a lack of protein source – it’s more than just the sharks,” said Sandy Campbell.
Susan Gardner said when developing solutions to overfishing, there needs to be a balance between benefits to nature as well as support to local communities.
The panelists agreed that one of the key ways to help is through increased awareness. This includes education for consumers about what they are buying in the grocery store and what is in their cosmetics, as well as educating children about what they can do to help their future. ~Brie Davis
June 30, 2020.