Monday, 28 September 2020
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Wednesday, 11 April 2007 00:00
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water a film comes along that makes you realize just how unsafe our waters are. But it isn’t humans who should fear the terrors of the deep. In fact the real terrors are caused by our own actions, putting the entire ocean’s ecosystem in jeopardy and risking the health of our planet. At least that is the opinion of Rob Stewart, Canadian biologist and creator of the documentary film Sharkwater.

Rob’s lifelong passion for marine life led him to become fascinated with one of the most feared and despised creatures on the planet; the shark. Inspired to conquer his initial fear Rob began studying the creatures and soon found that each moment he spent with them gave him a greater understanding and respect. They were not the man-eating monsters made so popular in the media. But he was noticing that instead of flourishing, the ocean’s top predator was disappearing. The downward trend in numbers was enough to make him start questioning, and he was shocked and surprised by what he discovered. It turns out that the sharks in our oceans are not a danger, but endangered.

Taking up a video camera Rob set out to prove, not only that our fears are unwarranted, but also his suspicion that sharks are being exploited for the almighty dollar. Used in soup and hocus-pocus miracle pills, the excessive market value ($200 a pound) for shark fin is resulting in a massive shark-poaching boom. Long-line fishing in particular has contributed to a drastic 90% decline in the world’s shark population. Even though it’s illegal, no one enforces the rules in international waters. He argues that the loss of sharks will not only affect our oceans but life on the planet and even the air we breathe. His opinions aren’t always backed up, and ask the audience to stretch our imaginations a little, but even without going that extra mile it isn’t hard to see that this is a major environmental issue.

Rob teams up with charismatic eco-activist Paul Watson and they set out to make a difference, heading toward the coast of Costa Rica where illegal poaching flourishes. What gives this documentary its teeth are the dangerous adventures that these two get into, fighting against a ship of illegal poachers, getting arrested, being hunted by authorities, and nearly losing a leg to Flesh-Eating Disease just to list a few.
The beauty of the underwater scenes is incredible. The striking silhouettes of hammerhead sharks against the blue water backdrop along with graceful sea turtles, or sea horses provide a view of ocean life that is seldom seen.

At times I found Sharkwater difficult to watch, but then I suppose that is the point. Scenes involving the slaughter of various marine-life including fish, turtles and seals were heartbreaking. But perhaps the most effective footage that Stewart provides is the Costa Rican rooftops where literally hundreds of thousands of shark fins are piled as far as the eye can see, drying in the sun. Pair this with the fact that the rest of the animal is wasted, maimed, and thrown back into the water to sink and die at the bottom. I wanted to bury my head and cry.

Sharkwater sometimes feels a little forced with its message, but is still an eye-opening film that seems to have people talking. I give it a 6 out of 10.