Sharkwater : A Gentler Side of Jaws

by Amanda Vender

A person is more likely to be killed by an elephant than by a shark. So why are people so afraid of them? The media makes sharks look dangerous. “The more time I spent with sharks, I realized they’re nothing like what we’re told,” said Canadian photographer Rob Stewart. This inspired him to make a movie about sharks.

Sharkwater opens in U.S. movie theaters on November 2.

The documentary is full of beautiful and colorful underwater scenes from the oceans of South America. Stewart is a biologist trained in handling sharks, so we see him swimming with and touching sharks underwater. The movie tells us that sharks are in big trouble. They are threatened by a big fishing business that kills sharks just for their fins to make a delicacy, shark fin soup. Recent studies show that the shark population around the world has declined by ninety percent.

Killing sharks hurts humans too. Sharks are at the top of the food chain in the oceans. They eat smaller animals and help ensure that phytoplankton survive. This plant produces oxygen and consumes carbon dioxide (CO2), which leads to global warming.

“If we lose sharks we disrupt the oxygen we need to breathe,” says Stewart. The movie doesn’t make connections to the many other threats to oceans such as pollution and global warming. It does not offer a critique of our economic system that values profit over protecting the environment. Nor does it paint much of a solution to the problem, though it urges people to learn more and get involved.

But watching the movie we learn how gentle sharks are and how this one part of the web of life is important to our survival.

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For more information about shark conservation and ideas on what you can do, visit

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