Subtlety isn’t a word that director and eco warrior Rob Stewart would probably understand, or care to understand. But subtlety isn’t what the world’s shark population needs either. Demonised by Hollywood and most news outlets, sharks have a reputation for being homicidal killers who want nothing more than to consume our children and destroy our summer holidays at the beach. And with such a public perception it’s no wonder anyone cares – or probably realises – that the world’s shark populations are on the cusp of extinction.
And why should we care?
Well, as Rob Stewart tells us over 89 minutes of engaging, beautifully shot documentary, sharks are not our enemies; they are in fact our saviours. Rob goes as far as hugging sharks whilst scuba diving to prove his point that they are not the demonised human predators that we think they are. He goes on to make several claims that lead up to the general conclusion that if we kill off the shark population, we doom the entire human race. To find out how, you’ll have to watch Sharkwater.
So what is happening to the world’s shark population? It’s being decimated by the demand for shark fin soup, a delicacy in Asian countries. Millions of sharks are harvested only for their fins, which are hacked off and the still-alive sharks are dumped back into the ocean for a slow and agonising death. This if nothing else is wasteful and cruel.
As far as documentaries go, Rob is a great, if somewhat over zealous presenter, making the plight of sharks look almost sexy, though some will find that he borders on mentally instable as he puts his health and life on the line in his pursuit of protecting the sharks. It contains some beautiful videography that rates as good as the BBC’s wildlife documentaries, and real life action that would put a Greenpeace protest ship to shame, along with political power plays that would make Winston Peters look lame.
The overriding emotional impact of Sharkwater however was demonstrated by my nine year old daughter, who I had told hold back as she wanted to spring into action and let everyone in the theatre know how terrible the shark finners were.