Saturday, March 3, 2007
Brad and I just had the opportunity to view an advanced screening of the documentary Sharkwater by Toronto-born diver and underwater photographer, Rob Stewart. Through his passionate and sorrowful eyes we experienced the horrors of the highly lucrative shark finning trade. More than 100 million sharks are killed each year in a process that involves cutting off the shark's fins and discarding the rest of the animal to suffer and die in the very oceans that have served to protect them for 400 million years. The fins are then sold for $300US/lb to be used in shark fin soup, a delicacy to the Asian elite. Sharks aren't the first creatures to be pushed to the brink of extinction by misdirected politics and they won't be the last. After the film someone in the audience compared sharks as predators in the water to humans on land and Rob quickly pointed out the significant difference being that "We've been here for a really short time. We're just screwing it up."
In the 1960's Desmond Morris demystified the most egocentric of animals...the human animal, with a zoologist's look at how the 'naked ape' is motivated by its biological urges. He warned that if we are to survive as a species we must be flexible and adapt to live within our ecosystem. We must use the intelligence we flaunt as human animals and consider the impact we are having on the world. Rob's harrowing run-in with Costa Rican authorities illustrates the pressure governments feel to ignore the slaughter of sharks for immediate human gain. Knowing what this money would mean to a desperate fisherman I can't say I'm surprised. It is obviously difficult to recognize the damage we are causing on the world beneath when the waters are muddied by the pain and suffering of human animals on land. Brad and I were moved to act by the desperation we see in people suffering around the world. But ignoring the eradication of other species by justifying that it is for the sake of our own is short-sighted and counter-intuitive. Desmond Morris summed up Rob's message beautifully. "We must somehow improve in quality rather than in sheer quantity. If we do this, we can continue to progress technologically in a dramatic and exciting way without denying our evolutionary inheritance. If we do not, then our suppressed biological urges will build up and up until the dam bursts and the whole of our elaborate existence is swept away in the flood."
I would highly recommend this powerful documentary which opens in theatres March 23, 2006. The message is obviously important but it also shows sharks for the shy and beautiful creatures they are, and as deserving as any of the more charismatic megafauna, of our respect and protection. If it's not showing in a theatre near you then inquire with the theatre's management to see if they can get it. Please visit the links below for more information on sharks and shark finning.
www.sharkwater.com - Photos (of and by Rob Stewart), shark info, press kit, as well as the movie's trailer.
www.seashepherd.org - Much of the footage was filmed off the deck of the Sea Shepherd with Captain Paul Watson and his crew, who seem to move tirelessly from one ocean to the next "singleboatedly" working towards the eradication of illegal fishing.
www.wildaid.org - WildAid is dedicated to raising awareness and reducing the demand for the illegal wildlife trade.
www.sharktrust.org - Great info site on sharks, conservation projects and current shark news.