In Memory of Our Dear Friend Rob Stewart
It was in 2014 when BurlingtonGreen had the good fortune of connecting with Toronto-born filmmaker, biologist, and conservationist Rob Stewart, after being truly inspired by his films and his work to protect sharks and our environment in general.
We screened Rob's first film Sharkwater on World Water Day to kick off our 2014 Eco-film Festival. Rob's mission was to raise awareness of the illegal fishing and slaughter of large numbers of sharks primarily for their fins used in shark fin soup and other products. He is credited with driving the movement to protect sharks and end shark finning, which is now banned in much of the world.
2014 Imprints Youth Summit & Eco Awards Celebration
In October 2014, we were thrilled and honoured to have Rob join us at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre as the keynote speaker for our dual component Imprints Youth Summit and Eco-Awards Celebration entitled, "Experience a Revolution". Rob's second film Revolution builds on the conservation theme of Sharkwater, with a hopeful message that we can all take part in an environmental revolution to save our planet's eco-systems, create a better world, and ultimately save ourselves.
1000 people were able to experience these two events, described by many as life-changing, with long standing ovations following his inspirational film and passionate presentations. Rob himself was moved by the energy of the event and audience. He shared with us afterward, "it really was a beautiful reminder of why I do this and has fuelled me to try harder."
A few core members of BurlingtonGreen kept in touch with Rob, and were quick to donate to his online Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign last year for his new film project Sharkwater: Extinction. We regarded Rob as an environmental hero, a mentor, and a friend – a truly special, kind and thoughtful person.
"His drive and enthusiasm was always infectious and compelling.
You couldn't help but jump on his train, for you knew it was going
someplace special. Someplace important. Someplace meaningful."
– Les Stroud (Survivorman)
And so, when the news broke on the evening of January 31st of Rob's disappearance off the Florida Keys while on a deep dive shoot for his next film, it hit home hard. After three fretful days of the world waiting and hoping for good news from search & rescue teams, the worst was confirmed. Rob had been found, peacefully in the ocean, having passed doing what he loved.
(See links at bottom of page for further details.)
A Beacon of Hope
We offer our heartfelt condolences to Rob's family and all who knew and loved him. Rob, you will forever be our beacon of hope for a better, kinder world. We will always keep you in our hearts as we work to try to create the world that you so passionately believed we could have one day.
"Let all the tears we individually shed, come together as one big ocean of love, and remind us that we must, in honour of Rob, keep marching forward. Rest In Peace Sharkman." –Rob's friend, Jonah Bryson.
Watch the Films, Take Action
In honour of Rob, we encourage everyone to take some time to watch his films online if you haven't seen them, or to be re-inspired if you've seen them in the past. Rob made his films for the purpose of spreading awareness around the world of the threats to the survival of sharks, our oceans, and ultimately the human race, in hopes of opening people's eyes to what's going on and spurring them to take action in their own lives.
Our oceans are dying from overfishing, pollution, and warming and acidification due to our carbon emissions. We rely on the oceans for our survival. Watching the films and stepping up one's own commitment to protecting our planet is the best way one can honour Rob's memory.
- Sharkwater: trailer and online video
- Revolution: trailer and online video, or download or order here.
- Sign a petition: to ban the sale of shark fins in Toronto here (Note: a ban was put in place in 2011, but was declared invalid by an Ontario Superior Court judge in 2012.)
As condolences and stories of people's connection to Rob pour in from around the world on Sharkwater.com, Facebook and elsewhere, it's inspiring in this time of grief and reflection to see many people resolving to step up their commitment to our planet, and get out there and continue Rob's work and "not live in the shadows of life", to quote his friend Tyler MacLeod. As Rob taught us, we each can and must persevere to create a better world -- the Revolution continues...
"We're realists, dreamers, and revolutionaries. We believe in the earth, life and that 3.5 billion years of evolution created a world of unmatched productivity and diversity, perfect for humans, and by undoing the damage wrought by short-sighted human expansion and greed, Earth can be paradise for humans and millions of other species." – Rob Stewart
(Photos courtesy of Nikki Wesley)
- Toronto Star article
- Outside Online article
- Toronto Star article: Public funeral for Rob to be held in Toronto, Feb. 18, 2017.
- A touching tribute by Rob's friend Les Stroud (aka "Survivorman")
- Sharkwater official website
- Revolution official website
- Sharkwater: Extinction webpage
- Sharkwater Facebook page
- Fin Free – a campaign started by Rob to stop shark finning
- Editorial: Parliament should ban importation of shark fin into Canada
- Photos of BurlingtonGreen's 2014 "Experience a Revolution" event with Rob, on Facebook