Thanks to the Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week” it feels like we know almost everything there is to know about the shark. However, shark enthusiast Rob Stewart’s Sharkwater proves that we clearly don’t, especially when it comes to what we humans are doing to this creature.
At first, Stewart’s documentary assumes the position of every other shark doc: they’re misunderstood creatures that are not out to eat you. He does a fine job of supporting his argument (the ’60s U.S. Air Force film on how to repel sharks is a nice comedic touch), but it’s nothing any Discovery watcher doesn’t already know. And then something happens — Rob gets involved, swimming with sharks, interacting with sharks and perhaps most dangerous of all, trying to save the sharks.
During trips to Guatemala and Costa Rica, Stewart uncovers the destructive and vicious trillion-dollar-a-year shark-finning business. Shark fin soup is an Asian delicacy and unfortunately, also the reason why the shark population has been reduced by 90-percent. Joining conservationist Paul Watson on the Sea Shepherd, Stewart quickly finds himself battling illegal shark-finning operations, which not only sees him being charged with attempted murder but also being chased by the coast guard with machine guns! And that’s not even the worst of his problems. This may sound like where the film loses the plot but Stewart is careful not to lose focus. Even when he’s lying in a hospital bed he’s fixated on getting back into the blue and acting the saviour.
What Sharkwater does for sharks is the exact opposite of what Jaws did. We should no longer be afraid of a creature that is more frightened of us. Instead, we should be trying to save a species the human race is wiping out and Sharkwater will convince anyone of this. The evidence Stewart presents is both horrifying and heartbreaking, and is exactly the sort of exposé every shark lover/activist has been waiting for.
By Cam Lindsay