By now most of you have heard the tragic news about Rob Stewart but may not really know who he was or what he stood for.
Rob Stewart was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. He loved the water which quickly developed into a love for diving. At age thirteen he became a certified diver along with his sister and parents and the vacation years that followed were centered on diving furthering his passion for the ocean and the underwater world.
Stewart went on to study biology at Ontario’s Western University and while there developed a talent for photography/filmography. He traveled whenever he could. At one point his travels took him to Los Angles which is where he found a mentor, Paul Watson, founder of Sea Sheppard, the global anti-poaching organization known for its defense of whales and campaigns against illegal fishing worldwide. Stewart joined Sea Shepherd’s Ocean Warrior in 2002 to film the expedition that aimed to battle Costa Rican shark poachers. Watson and his team had showered the poachers with water cannons, slammed into their vessel, and attempted to take control of their boat. Consequently, both men, with the rest of the Ocean Warrior crew, arrested by Costa Rican authorities for attempted murder. They slipped custody and used the footage to expose a vast international and illegal shark-finning cartel.
The footage from that expedition was used in Stewart’s most notable work in his 2006 documentary Sharkwater. The film not only exposed the shark finning industry; it raised awareness, won over 40 awards and had a remarkable impact. Moreover, for Stewart the experience changed his perception of sharks, “You’re told your whole life since you were a kid, sharks are dangerous. You’re warned not to go adventuring too far out into the ocean, but then finally… you see the thing you were taught your whole life to fear, and it’s perfect, and it doesn’t want to hurt you, and it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. And your whole world changes.”
On Tuesday morning of January 31st, Stewart boarded a dive boat docked at Caloosa Cove Marina on the tiny isle of Islamorada, just south of Key Largo. What started for a chance to get glimpse of the shy, elusive sawfish, ended in his demise. Reports say after his third dive of the day, Stewart came up to the surface and suddenly went back under. After 72 hours of searching from a 20 volunteer air and boat crew, including the John Paul Dejoria, Sea Shepherd’s newest member of its fleet, and 12 civilian aircraft—among them Richard Branson’s helicopter and Jimmy Buffet’s private plane, he was found 300 feet from his last know position laying peacefully on the ocean floor.
Stewart will forever be remembered for his passion to save and protect sharks. We at Sharkbytes express our deepest sympathy to his friends, family and those in the shark community who share his passion. It will forever be alive. Please help remember him by signing the petition below.