Awhile back I was all excited about an independent documentary coming out presenting the true face of sharks and their precarious future. Luckily it was screening in Seattle, so I was able to catch it in its full movie screen glory. I checked Netflix a few days ago and noticed that it is out and available on DVD and even Blu-Ray (it was filmed all in HD, so the Blu-Ray is defiantly worth it).
Sharkwater is an epic visual journey into the oceans exposing the beauty and the peril of sharks worldwide. Rob Stewart’s aim was to create an anti-Jaws, in other words, an attempt to dispel the myths and urban legends associated with sharks (an odd little side note is the extreme regret by Peter Benchley, the creator of ‘Jaws’, for having caused an almost hysteria driven hunt and destruction of sharks everywhere leading him to be an outspoken shark conservation advocate).
- Genre: Documentary
- Running time: 89 min.
- Director: Rob Stewart
- Studio: Alliance Films
- Producer: Rob Stewart
- Cast: Rob Stewart, Paul Watson, Dr. Erich Ritter, Susan Backlinie, Godfrey Merlin, Mark Butler, Dr. Boris Worm, William Goh, Vic Hislop, Dr. Samuel Gruber, Rex Weyler, Carlos Perez Cembrero, Patrick Moore, Lisa Anastario, Larissa Gilligan
I found the movie to be visually stunning, with several long cuts of gorgeous underwater vistas, schooling hammerheads and more. The cinematography is very well done and is not unlike those you would see in the BBC’s Planet Earth with life-like sharpness and amazing colors so you feel as if you are immersed underwater. The main focus of this movie centers around the barbaric practice of shark ‘finning’. Near and dear to my heart, it is the practice that, thankfully, is gaining some recognition (probably in part due to this movie).
The ‘plot’ is interesting, and includes some time on the Sea Shepard Society’s boat with Captain and ‘Rouge’ Conservationist Paul Watson (who now have their own show on Discovery called ‘Whale Wars‘), but seems a bit choppy at times. There is a bout with ‘flesh eating bacteria’ and a run in with corrupt officials and organized crime syndicates, both which failed to captivate me in their intended way.
Moving away from the traditional documentary genre, the well intended storyline follows much like a generic Hollywood movie with the integration of a ‘sexy protagonist’, an seemingly insurmountable obstacle to overcome with action scenes and mounting suspense. Problem being the ‘sexiness’ verged on vanity, the action scenes appeared exaggerated, and the suspense was contrived. I believe the film would have been much more enjoyable if it would have allowed for the natural suspense of the situations to carry through giving it a more real, raw, and un-masked feel. It’s as though the movie was formed to fit the Hollywood framework rather than allowing the message, the destruction, and the journey to tell the story.
That being said, the overall message is not lost and cannot be ignored. Winning countless awards and film festivals from around the world and rating a very impressive 8.0 on IMDB and 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, it still remains one of the most beautiful, entertaining, and greatest shark movie I have ever seen. Well worth the rental or purchase price and great for the whole family. It simply must not be missed. I plan on including this film in my Blu-Ray library, and it will sit right between BBC’s Planet Earth and Discovery Channels Shark Week series.
What is Shark Finning?
- Shark finning refers to the removal and retention of shark fins and the discard at sea of the
carcass. The shark is most often still alive when it is 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 finning takes place at sea so the fishers have only the fins to transport, and have no need
for refrigeration. Shark meat is considered low value and therefore not worth the cost of
transporting the bulky shark bodies to market.
- Any shark is taken – regardless of age, size, or species.
- Long lines are the most widespread method of fishing for sharks.
- Shark finning is widespread, and largely unmanaged and unmonitored.
- Shark finning has increased over the past decade due to the increasing demand for shark fins (for
shark fin soup and traditional cures), improved fishing technology, and improved market
- Shark specialists estimate that more than 100 million sharks are killed for their fins annually.
- One pound of dried shark fin can retail for $300 or more. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry.
Impacts of Shark Finning
- Loss and devastation of shark populations around the world. Experts estimate that within a
decade, numerous species of sharks will be lost because of long lining.
- Unsustainable fishery. The massive quantity of sharks harvested and lack of selection deplete
shark populations faster than their reproductive abilities sustain.
- Threatens the stability of marine ecosystems.
- Loss of sharks as a food staple for many developing countries.
- Large industrial, foreign fishing vessels that threaten traditional sustainable fisheries invade local
- Obstructs the collection of species-specific data that are essential for monitoring catches and
implementing sustainable fisheries management.
- Each country with a coastline is responsible for laws and regulations pertaining to fishing in their
- A number of countries have shark-finning legislation. Many stipulate that fins must arrive in a 5
per cent weight ratio of the shark carcasses onboard. Only a few countries demand that sharks
arrive in port with fins attached.
- According to the IUCN Shark Specialist group, the easiest way to implement a ban is to require
that shark carcasses be landed with fins attached. The possession of fins alone on vessels would
thus be illegal.
- Shark finning violates the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Code of Conduct
for Responsible Fisheries.
- Shark finning is contrary to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s
International Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.
- The United Nations Convention on the Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES)
lists the whale shark, basking shark, and great white shark as species that could become
threatened if trade is not controlled. To date, 169 countries have agreed to be legally bound by
Are there laws against shark finning?