Brian and Sandra Stewart of the Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation provided the ICCR Steering Committee, Government, Industry and other stakeholders with an overview of the amazing work of their late son Rob Stewart (1979-2017), an award-winning biologist, photographer, conservationist, author and filmmaker, to save sharks that are on the brink of extinction. Rob was unfortunately lost in a tragic and much publicized diving accident off the coast of Florida in 2017.
Millions of sharks are hunted and killed each year for their fins, meat, and even their livers. Shark livers contain an oil known as squalene. High in fatty acids and antioxidants, it is used as a moisturizing agent. While squalene can be extracted from olives, wheat germ, and other plants, its sourcing from sharks is apparently easier and cheaper. It is estimated that as much as 90% of shark squalene product is sold to cosmetic producers.
The Stewarts are carrying on the work of their son to promote global awareness, drive change, and protect sharks which are critical to the health of ocean ecosystems and ultimately the sustainability of the planet and human life. Their efforts include promoting awareness within the cosmetics and personal care products industry on the need for manufacturers and ingredient suppliers to understand the source of any squalene/squalane used and ensure that it is derived only from plants.
Canada became the first G20 country in the world to recently ban the import and export of shark fins in a move advocates hailed as a major win for preserving ocean populations. The ban passed in honour of Rob on June 18, 2019 as part of Bill C-68, which overhauls the Fisheries Act. Canada has outlawed the practice of cutting fins off domestic sharks since 1994, but it did not previously have legislation to prohibit people from bringing fins into the country.
The issues discussed with the Stewarts raise the larger question of the use of endangered species (animal or plant) in our society in general. For more information, go to www.sharkwater.com and check out Rob’s award-winning epic films Sharkwater and Sharkwater: Extinction.