In 2006, Canadian filmmaker and conservationist Rob Stewart exposed the issue of shark finning to the world in his award-winning documentary film, Sharkwater. The movie changed laws about shark finning around the globe, and created hundreds of conservation groups. Today, more than 90 countries have banned shark finning and the trade of shark products.
But sadly, sharks are still being fished—and are in danger of extinction.
So Rob Stewart's team of experts, including biologists, divers, and conservationists, are back to investigate the illegal shark-finning industry. Sharkwater Extinction opens in theatres this Friday, October 19. And we got a chance to talk to some of the team members!
Brock Cahill, Andy Casagrande, Julie Andersen, and Regi Domingo all worked with Rob Stewart to make Sharkwater Extinction. And they all continue—along with other Team Sharkwater members—to work hard to protect our planet's oceans and to raise awareness about the plight of sharks.
Read on for an interview with Brock, Andy, Julie, and Regi!
What first made you interested in helping sharks?
BROCK: I have always been intrigued by sharks since I was a little kid. And I first got interested in saving sharks because I saw Rob Stewart on the cover of a magazine free diving with sharks. I said, I want to do THAT. And then his first film, Sharkwater, came out, bringing to light that sharks were in danger. I called him to ask if I could help. We found out that we had much in common and became best buddies, working together to save sharks!
REGI: In 2010, I was working as a volunteer in a rescue marine animal center in Barcelona, Spain, my hometown. I was in charge of a shark exhibition, so to get more knowledge on the topic, I started to research information. In my research, I ended up finding the film Sharkwater. And after I saw it, my life changed. I wanted to help save sharks. I left behind my country, my job, and my dogs to realize my dream of working in this place, Cocos Island in Costa Rica, helping sharks.
Little did I know that some years later, I would get to meet Rob and work on Sharkwater Extinction. This is why I always think, if you really dream of something and really want to do something from the depth of your heart, the universe conspires to make it happen!
Did the team face any dangers or difficulties while diving and filming the sharks?
ANDY: Yes, the team faced many dangers while filming—with the highest danger being human related, not shark related. Humans can be very malicious and dangerous. In fact, Brock and Rob were shot at by fishermen while filming the drift nets off of California—luckily, no one was harmed. Safety precautions always boil down to common sense.
REGI: The ocean is not our natural home, so you always need to be careful and have respect for a place that is not your home. Filming sharks is challenging, mostly because they are very shy. I have never felt threatened by a shark, though. But I have felt a little bit worried in the ocean during bad weather conditions. That's why we always need to know when it is time to should stop and try another day or time.
How long did it take to make the movie?
BROCK: It took us about three years to make the movie. We hoped to have it done about a year earlier, but a few curve balls were thrown along the way. So much goes into filming—way more than appears on the surface. Especially in a film that dives so deep!
What's your favourite species of shark and why?
BROCK: Can I please have more than one favourite? I love tiger sharks because they are very inquisitive and sometimes rambunctious like puppy dogs, and they will eat just about anything. And I love great hammerheads because they are ultimately sensitive. And last but not least, I love oceanic white tip sharks. They are so graceful in the water and glide like fighter jets with their massive pectoral fins on oceanic currents, easily circumnavigating the globe. They are also pretty cheeky and slightly mischievous, and stunningly beautiful.
ANDY: Great white sharks are my favorite species of shark because they are incredibly versatile, innovative, and charismatic predators. AND because they can eat all the other sharks for breakfast if they wanted to!
JULIE: There are so many amazing and unique things to love about every species of the more than 500 species of sharks. But if I had to choose a favourite, I think it would be the scalloped hammerhead. Not only are they incredibly cool-looking with the ability to see 365 degrees at all times and detect their prey buried in the sand—but the first shark I ever met was a scalloped hammerhead.
Are there other animals you would like to help?
JULIE: I love all animals—above and below the water. I chose to fight for sharks because so few people want to save an animal they are afraid of—and sharks need all the help they can get. The cuddly, furry animals like pandas and tigers have a lot of advocates fighting for their protection. But if I could help all animals, I would!
REGI: I love all living creatures from plants to insects to sharks to whales to humans! It is not only about sharks—it's about our Earth! I consider myself a nature lover and an always-learning human. I want to help save and protect all species that are threatened, vulnerable, or endangered. Nature is the reason I love and live.
What can kids do to help save sharks?
JULIE: We can all do something in our daily lives to save sharks. And like Rob Stewart, I believe that the future of sharks lies in the hands of kids! Rob inspired kids around the globe, through his own example and also by telling them to take what they are best at and combine it with their passion—to bring about change. So, if you are passionate about the oceans—and why wouldn’t you be?—you have a unique superpower to help sharks and the oceans.
Here’s a few ideas that have been inspired by other kids we work with.
1. Stand up for sharks! Correct people’s misconceptions and tell everyone you know about what is happening.
2. Hold a beach cleanup. Ensure all trash is thrown in the right place. All that ends up in the ocean.
3. Make sure your parents make smart choices about what they buy and eat. Help them understand what products contain shark and what they should avoid.
4. Host a fundraiser. From selling bracelets to bake sales to car washes, there are so many ways to raise funds for conservation.
You can find more information on the Sharkwater website.
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what your super power is, and to apply that to what you are passionate about. If it’s not sharks—then do something for the other animal(s) you love. In that way, we can all be a hero like Rob.
Swimming into theatres
You and your family can see Sharkwater Extinction in theatres across Canada this weekend. In the meantime, check out the trailer here.