Rob Stewart was a conservationist, shark activist, author, biologist, filmmaker and the founder of United Conservationists in 2009, and its Fin Free movement. His films, Sharkwater, Revolution and Sharkwater Extinction brought awareness for ocean conservation, changed laws and public policy, and created hundreds of ocean conservation groups.
His work to save sharks has resulted in more than 100 countries banning shark finning and 41 countries banning shark finning, shark fishing or the shark fin trade entirely. Fourteen U.S. states and three territories have banned shark fins. Hotels, theme parks, and airlines have banned shark fins.
Since Sharkwater, marine protected areas have increased by more than 23 million square kilometers.
Sadly, in 2017 Rob died in a tragic dive accident while filming his final movie, Sharkwater Extinction. In 2018, his family and friends created the Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation to continue his mission to “Live in harmony with nature.”
Together United Conservationists and Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation have been busy fulfilling that mandate.
Research: Sharkwater continued to research and document sharks and oceans in the Eastern Tropical Pacific in Costa Rica, Socorro, Guadeloupe, Malpelo Island.
Research in the British Virgin Islands with Richard Branson and BVI Unite to allow governments to add shark protections/expand marine parks with a goal to providing a safe corridor through the Caribbean.
Shark protection legislation that Rob initiated in Turks and Caicos has continued through the Foundation working with local conservation groups and government officials.
Advocacy: Our team attended numerous meetings and events in Ottawa and were witnesses at Senate Fisheries Committee hearings, studying the Canadian Shark Fin Trade ban. We engaged leaders within the Asian community to ensure officials understood there would be no “cultural” backlash. Canada banned the Shark Fin Trade in June 2019, citing Rob’s work as the impetus.
Presentations and meetings with legislators, staffers and government officials in D.C. to build awareness for shark conservation. Our efforts aided in the U.S. House passing the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act by the end of 2019. We continued to work with politicians and other government departments through 2020. On June 8, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act.
Shark Free: Worked with cosmetics regulators in U.S./Canada/International to assist manufacturers, distributors and supply chains to remove shark squalene from their products.
Team Sharkwater created the Saving Sharks PSA that amassed millions of views — A quick look at why Sharks Matter. Through the “Summer of Sharks” the team continued shark conservation awareness through Discovery’s Sharkweek and Nat Geo’s Sharkfest, as well as a Senate push to pass the Shark Fin Sales Act.
Developed programs to bring awareness to Florida legislators as well as Fish and Wildlife Services for a complete ban on the Florida shark fin trade. Florida passed a shark fin trade ban in 2020.
Promoted awareness for New Jersey ban that passed in 2020.
Team Sharkwater completed more than 50 trips worldwide in the last two years to advocate for sharks and ocean conservation.
Attended many events, including at the Cannes Film Festival for United Nations; Monaco Better World Foundation; London premiere hosted by Princess Eugenie with Sam Branson; Hong Kong premiere hosted by Princess Eugenie; Los Angeles premiere attended by numerous celebs; D.C. premiere attended by government officials, Coast Guard and conservation groups. Sharkwater Extinction premiere in Costa Rica for government officials and conservation groups to further shark legislation. And a U.N. screening in Tunisia for government officials hosted by Canadian Embassy.
United Nations and European Commission presentation of Sharkwater Extinction with Q&A panel to outline issues such as shark finning, deep sea fishing for shark livers and the corresponding impact on poor nations and economically challenged local communities.
Brought International support for CITES Mako protections, which passed in 2019.
The Foundation continues to distribute educational information on sharks and ocean conservation through unrestricted website access. We continued the work of Fin Free in Asia through translated educational materials and public screenings with local conservation groups.
United Conservationists/Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation grants free license usage of Rob’s films for educational uses, translated into Latin Spanish, Castilian Spanish, French, Italian, German, Mandarin, Cantonese, Portuguese.
June 10, 2021
Hong Kong customs seized over three tonnes of dried shark fins at the HK International Airport.
The bust happened on May 29, 2021 after custom officers inspected two air shipments arriving from Mexico and found millions of dollars worth in shark fins. These illegal commodities are valued at approximately $2.2 million dollars.
Hong Kong officials actively do their part to try and stop the illicit trade of shark fins. Under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, a person found guilty of trading an endangered species without a licence can face a maximum fine of $10 million and 10 years in prison.
Photo: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Press Release
June 8, 2020.
We are excited to announce that on World Ocean’s Day, that the U.S. Senate passed the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act (S.1106).
This was a lifelong dream of Rob Stewart; one that he worked for years to attain, not just through his films Sharkwater and Sharkwater Extinction, have been awarded more than 150 international awards and viewed by over 125 million people, but by campaigning tirelessly and founding the conservation groups United Conservationists and Fin Free. His dream for a Fin Free U.S. is finally coming to fruition.
Now it’s back to the House for ratification, which is expected soon; the House has demonstrated strong support for the Shark Fin Sales Elimination act, passing it 301 to 107 in 2019.
77% of oceanic sharks and rays are endangered and on the IUCN’s Red List, so this is a huge success. The bill bans the selling, buying and trade of shark fins and products that contain shark fins and will also shut down the shipping — the U.S. is a major transportation hub for shark fins.
Thanks to all our supporters and all the legislators for their years and decades of support for this important legislation. ~Emily Chavez
Australian Madison Stewart was featured in Rob Stewart’s Sharkwater Extinction. No relation to Rob, she describes herself as a “tech diver, filmmaker, and well rounded misfit” but she’s so much more. She founded Project Hiu, a Nonprofit Organization that transitions shark fishermen to shark tourism.
Madison realized at a young age that she loved sharks. In fact, she calls them adorable. Growing up on Australia’s Gold Coast, Madison became a certified Open Water diver at 12. She was filming sharks underwater by the time she was 14, having noticed the drastic decrease in shark populations. When she realized there was a legal shark fishery inside the Great Barrier Reef that harvested 100,000 sharks a year, Madison knew she had to act before all the sharks were gone.
The documentary Shark Girl followed Madison’s mission to protect sharks. She’s also been in Julie Barnes’ Sea of Life and will appear in the upcoming Envoy: Shark Cull. She says, “I always knew I wanted to get into film but never knew it could be a tool for conservation. Before Rob I enjoyed the ocean but never saw my potential to fight for it and take responsibility for it. I would say 100 percent Rob inspired me.”
Just 27 years of age, she’s already done so much to help sharks and the environment. So today, International Women’s Day (March 8, 2021), we want to shine the spotlight on the super incredible Madison Stewart!