Shark Week: In memory of Robert Brian Stewart – 1979-2017

THE PINK DOLPHIN 24/07/2017

“The Pink Dolphin” is the official blog of SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras

 

Toronto filmmaker Rob Stewart was an aquatic guardian angel for the “demons” of the deep

At the age of 22, Robert Stewart was a young and energetic man who understood that the most powerful weapon in the world is the camera, and armed with a camera he set out in the year 2002 to change the world.

He succeeded.

With his award winning film Sharkwater he actually did change the world. He transformed fearsome monsters into beautifully awesome creatures, deserving of both respect and empathy.

Rob was a man passionate about sharks. He saw them as beautiful sentient beings whose existence contributes to a healthy oceanic eco-system. He set out to prove that his intuitive perception about the true nature of sharks was real, and he did just that.

When Rob boarded my Canadian flagged ship the Ocean Warrior we explored the once shark-abundant waters around Costa Rica’s Cocos Island and the enchanted islands of the Galapagos.

Despite the obstacles, together we found the sharks and together we found trouble with frequent confrontations with shark-finning poachers. Together we were arrested for our interventions for filming crimes in a nation where such crimes are ignored and even protected by the authorities and where a camera is considered as something subversive.

His images contrasted the beauty of sharks within their element against the ugly images of the horror of their living finless bodies tossed overboard, drifting helplessly to the bottom of the sea to die slowly, their shocked eyes open, allowing us, for a moment, to glimpse their pain as the spark of life was slowly extinguished.

Rob once told me that he understood that his work was dangerous but that the least of those dangers was being killed by a shark. He was literally a shark hugger and the image of him with his arms around a large shark, his hand affectionately stroking what most people considered a fearsome creature, was revolutionary and enlightening.

The man knew sharks. He understood their importance and his confidence with his views about sharks allowed him to approach and film some of the most amazing images ever captured about these spectacular apex predators.

In addition to being a marine biologist, Rob Stewart had the four most important virtues needed to be a world class expert on sharks and the reality of our relationship with the living diversity within oceanic eco-system.

These virtues are passion, empathy, courage and imagination. He had the courage to follow his passion with a remarkable empathy for his subject and the imagination to transform the focus of his work through the media of film in a way that changed the perception of sharks to tens of millions of people around the planet.

Rob died doing what he loved. He took chances. Three deep dives in one day using a rebreather was dangerous and he knew it was dangerous. These devices, even in the hands of a professional diver like Rob, are unpredictable. Some people have asked why he was using a rebreather. The answer is that it allowed him to stay down long and because it does not produce bubbles, allowing him to get closer to the sharks, which are animals that are easily spooked by bubbles. It allowed him to be like one of his subjects rather than a suspicious invader from another world.

Speaking with Rob and looking into his eyes revealed a deep sadness at what our species has done to the sharks. We slaughter tens of millions of them every year to the point that many shark species hover on the brink of extinction and that is why the film he had been working on is called Sharkwater Extinction.

Rob was an incredible educator in the spirit of Captain Jacques Cousteau. He brought the aquatic realm onto land and confronted us with the reality of the true nature of sharks. That in itself was heroic, even more so than his extraordinary feats of underwater documentation. It was heroic because he was championing a creature that has for centuries inspired fear and loathing. As a filmmaker, he was the antithesis of Steven Spielberg and Sharkwater was the Anti Jaws.

It was my privilege to stand with Rob to present Sharkwater at the Toronto Film Festival. It was my privilege to dive with him in the Galapagos and at Cocos Island.

Rob pioneered a new and intimate approach to documenting sharks and I believe he inspired other courageous film makers like Michael Muller (White Mike) and Madison Stewart (Shark Girl). He laid the groundwork for both film makers and conservationists.

Most importantly he has left a legacy.

He will be greatly missed, by his family and friends, by his fellow Canadians and by caring and dedicated people around the world who will never forget his work, his courage, his talent, his resolve, his imagination and his awesome passion for life, beauty and truth.

By Captain Paul Watson

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Source: The Globe and Mail

 

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Editor’s Comment:

Words can not describe the loss we and sharks feel about the untimely death of Rob Stewart. Rob Stewart was the planet’s pioneer in saving sharks from extinction as was so magnificently portrayed in his film Sharkwater.

SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras had the opportunity to work closely with Paul Watson and Rob Stewart during our attempts to put an end to Shark finning in the Galapagos and Ecuador’s Pacific coast. The campaign was very successful until we discovered that the head of Correa’s Alianza Pais party in Manabi was a powerful member of the Shark fin mafia. Then the following occurred:

To: President Rafael Corea, President of Ecuador From: Captain Paul Watson, Founder and President of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Dear Mr. President,

I have been informed by the Ecuadorian media that the Mayor’s office in Quito accepted to consider an official “appeal on the grounds of unconstitutionality” (Recurso de Amparo) in reference to your order to deport Sea Shepherd’s Representative in Ecuador, Sean O’Hearn Gimenez. As a result, Sean O’Hearn Gimenez avoided expulsion 10 minutes before being forced to board a Delta flight to Atlanta. On this point, we are all a bit confused. Why, Mr. President, did you publicly announce to the national and international media at 8 o’clock in the morning of August 4th, 2007 that you personally had deported Sean O’Hearn Gimenez three hours before the official deportation hearing had taken place? Isn’t it true, Mr. President, that under Ecuadorian law, a person can only be deported after the official hearing has taken place? During this hearing isn’t it true, Mr. President, that Sean had the right to the legal counsel of his choice? Can you please instruct the Minister of Government, Mr. President, to confirm that Dr. Gyna Solis, Sean’s attorney, was not allowed to be present during this official hearing? Could you also request the Minister of Government, Mr. President, to explain how he could legally have nullified the 9-VI Residency Visa?

Within this context, I have received all the documentation relating to the police operations conducted in the province of Manabí on July 31st, 2007. Similarly, we have obtained numerous reports concerning Sean’s illegal detention on the night of August 3rd, 2007, as well as the analysis of the evident inconsistencies which suggest that due process was clearly denied. I have forwarded all of this information to our international lawyers and our Board of Directors for their review.

On behalf of Sea Shepherd, I take this opportunity to thank the Ecuadorian media for their unbiased, professional and dedicated coverage of this very unfortunate incident which has transcended to thousands of media outlets on all six continents of the world. We have taken note that the overwhelming majority of the Ecuadorian press is suggesting that effectively the Ecuadorian state has failed to uphold Sean O’Hearn Gimenez’s legal rights as stipulated and guaranteed under the Ecuadorian Constitution and under International law.

Nevertheless, Mr. President, I reaffirm the position taken by both Sean O’Hearn Gimenez and Pieter Brouwer, Spokesperson for Sea Shepherd in Ecuador, as published in El Universo on August 8th, 2007, stating that differences of opinion in democracies can best be resolved through dialogue and that unilateral actions which apparently abuse the due process of law should not be encouraged. Sea Shepherd is open to any invitation to discuss the events with you and your Minister of Government personally.

Subsequently, concerning the agreement of cooperation signed at the request of your government, between the National Police and Sea Shepherd, I hereby officially communicate to you that this was immediately suspended the second Sean O’Hearn Gimenez was illegally arrested. For the record, our cooperation with the environmental police produced 7 operations during which a historical record was achieved including the decommission of 40,000+ shark fins and 93,000+ endemic sea cucumbers of the Galapagos Islands. The suspension of the agreement very unfortunately affects over 20 Million dollars of international funds which were being successfully negotiated to strengthen the projects that we were jointly formulating between your government and Sea Shepherd. Ironically, a very important program was being directed to improve the socioeconomic situation of artisanal fishermen living in the Galapagos and on the mainland who are facing conditions of extreme poverty. Certainly, Mr. President, the environment does not have to account for poverty nor should it have to pay the consequences, as your Presidential Decree No. 486 would imply. Poverty is directly correlated to state policy and should be resolved within this spectrum.

I am requesting, as President and Founder of Sea Shepherd, my board of advisors to contact the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Director General of UNESCO, the European Parliament, the EU, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, the Ecuadorian Congress and other pertinent authorities to express our deep concern that the marine reserve of the Galapagos Islands is under major threat. We are all appealing, Mr. President, to your sensibility on ecological matters and agree with you when you state that “the shark is more valuable swimming freely in Galapagos than floating dead in the soup of the Chinese.” Consequently, once again I formally request that you reinstate Presidential Decree No. 2130 by nullifying your Presidential Decree No. 486, especially as UNESCO World Heritage Committee will be reviewing the status of the archipelago in November 2007 and February 2008.

However, I am forced to draw your attention and wish to express to you my very deep concern as to the more than unfortunate incident which has occurred this morning with regard to Elsa Maria Cortez, wife of Sean O’Hearn Gimenez. I have requested Sean and his family to return for consultation as soon as possible. This matter, as well as all the incidents surrounding Sean’s illegal arrest, have been communicated to the institutions which legally represent the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Very specifically, I am requesting Mariana Almeida, Executive President of Selva-Vida Sin Fronteras Foundation of Ecuador and member of our Board of Advisors in Latin America to intercede. Independently, I am also asking Dr. Juan De Dios Parra, Secretary General of the Latin American Association of Human Rights (ALDHU), to represent Sean O’Hearn Gimenez’s human rights in Ecuador.

Finally, I am requesting the members of our Board of Advisors to consider:

the implications of Presidential Decree No. 486 on the Galapagos Marine Reserve
the impact of Presidential Decree No. 486 on the Pacific Marine Corridor
the possible violations of human rights experienced by our representative in the very beautiful country which you are presently presiding
For your easy reference, The Sea Shepherd Advisory Board consists of:

Scientific, Technical, and Conservation:
Dr. Deborah Brosnan
David Foreman
Dr. Birute Galdikas
Randy Hayes
Dr. Herbert Henrich
Dr. Jennifer Hopper
Captain Jet Johnson
Horst Kleinschmidt
Dr. Louise Leakey
Elizabeth May
Dr. Joe McInnis
Dr. Godfrey Merlen
Dr. Roger Payne
Grant Pereira

Legal and Law Enforcement:
Basil Hobbs

Financial and Management:
John Paul DeJoria
Mike Galesi
Pritam Singh
Robert Wintner

Photography:
Jody Boyman
Marc Gaede

Media and Arts:
Brigitte Bardot
Linda Blair
Berkeley Breathed
Pierce Brosnan
James Cromwell
Linda G. Fisher
Rutger Hauer
Pieter Kroonenburg
Rafe Mair
Jacques Perrin
Sean Penn
Martin Sheen
George Sumner
Diane Warren

Animal Welfare, Humane and Animal Rights:
Dr. Alex Hershaft
Marnie Gaede
Steve Hindi
Howard Lyman
Alex Pacheco
Heidi Prescott
Dr. Tom Regan

I remain yours sincerely,
Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (1977-
Co-Founder – The Greenpeace Foundation (1972)
Co-Founder – Greenpeace International (1979)
Director of the Sierra Club USA (2003-2006)
Director – The Farley Mowat Institute
Director – http://www.harpseals.org
Working Partner with the Galapagos National Park.
Master/Commander of the M/Y Robert Hunter
Commander of the M/Y Farley Mowat

Ecuador’s Shark Finning supporters: Correa, Aguiñaga and Larrea-

 

Rob Stewart your legacy is infinite and it is our duty to continue your battle in defense of the oceans and sharks.  You will be sorely missed, RIP my friend.

Pieter Jan Brouwer

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EDITORIAL COMMITTEE:

Arno Ambrosius
Mariana Almeida
David Dunham
Gustavo López Ospina
Gertjan Storm
Editor: Pieter Jan Brouwer

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All Title photographs of the Amazon Pink fresh water Dolphin are the creation of Kevin Schafer.
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~ by SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras on 24 July, 2017.

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