June 10, 2010

Who’s afraid of the big bad shark?

I am! I am! Why? The film JAWS. Sharks are mysterious, mean-looking creatures and have been known to eat people. By now you understand, I’m not referring to BP. Although they scare me even more than the biggest, baddest white shark with a history of chowing down on men, women and children.

Back to real life sharks…

Photo: flickr.com

I have no problem snorkling (in fear), but refuse to walk into the ocean past my ankles. It’s similar to my fear of flying. If I can’t look out the window and see the wing, I feel a loss of control… increasing the odds of the plane plummeting to earth. Wading into crashing ocean waves is a bit like that. I can’t see what’s going on under there. If there was a lurking shark, I wouldn’t see it coming.

But then I learned about the documentary film Sharkwater and watched the trailer…

If I watch the entire film, which has already earned 31 documentary film awards, I just may be able to wade in up to my knees. Or dive in without fear.

Sharkwater brings shark finning into the light–the removal and retention of shark fins and the discard at sea of the carcass. The shark is often still alive when tossed back into the water. Unable to swim, and bleeding to death, the shark suffers a slow death where 95% of the animal is wasted.

Shark specialists estimate that more than 100 million sharks are killed for their fins annually.

Shark finning threatens the stability of marine ecosystems and what is a food staple for many developing countries.

For filmmaker Rob Stewart, exploring sharks began as an underwater adventure. What it turned into was a beautiful and dangerous life journey into the balance of life on earth.

“An eye-opening film… visually stunning.. this movie will change the way you see our oceans.”
~ Bonnie Laufer, Tribute Magazine

“Compelling…part gorgeous, ethereal swim with the sharks…part message movie about the slaughter of the innocents.”
~Bruce Kirkland, Toronto Sun

“Stewart’s footage is superb…. an eco-upset tale as complex and cautionary as Darwin’s Nightmare.”
~ David Rooney, Variety

In an effort to protect sharks, Stewart teams up with renegade conservationist Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Their unbelievable adventure together starts with a battle between the Sea Shepherd and shark poachers in Guatemala, resulting in pirate boat rammings, gunboat chases, mafia espionage, corrupt court systems and attempted murder charges, forcing them to flee for their lives.

Through it all, Steward discovers these magnificent creatures have gone from predator to prey, and how despite surviving earth’s history of mass extinctions, they could easily be wiped out within a few years due to human greed.

Stewart’s remarkable journey of courage and determination changes from a mission to save the world’s sharks, into a fight for his life, and that of mankind. Here’s what he ultimately hopes people will take away from his film:

There are a few things. The simplest one is that people view sharks differently. They’re not dangerous. They’re not mindless killers. They don’t eat people and, I think, as long as people view them as dangerous predators, people aren’t going to care about them. They’re not going to want them to survive on the planet. They want to get rid of something they’re afraid of. I hope that it (the film) helps to start reversing the way the media has portrayed sharks and gives people information and the tools they need to make better decisions to be able to say ‘okay, I’m not going to be afraid of that’ or ‘I’m not going to listen to this headline.’ In order for humans to survive this planet, to have such an irrational fear of sharks is not a good thing.

The other thing is that we’ve been in this few thousand-year trend of destruction. It hasn’t been cool to conserve, to promote sustainable use of the environment, of the oceans. But I think people are going to start realizing that if we’re going to survive on this planet as a species, we need to conserve it and protect it.

Help save the sharks!  Watch the film and tell 10 friends. And/or donate to Save the Blue.

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