How One Man Got the Entire World to Care About Sharks
Interview with Team Sharkwater’s Brock Cahill
Diver, filmmaker, and conservationist Rob Stewart captured global attention in 2007 when the award-winning documentary “Sharkwater” brought awareness to the massive shark finning industry. In 2017, while on location shooting the sequel, “Sharkwater Extinction,” Rob tragically passed away at 37. With the efforts of his parents, Team Sharkwater, and the international community, “Sharkwater Extinction” was completed and premiered last fall to critical acclaim. This month, we were honoured to speak with Team Sharkwater’s Brock Cahill, one of Rob’s dearest friends.
Parvati Magazine: Rob inspired massive change on a global scale. Can you share some of his highlights and memorable moments?
Brock Cahill: Rob was a tsunami of positivity in his all-too-brief existence. Some of the things he was most stoked about were the creation of numerous conservation groups regarding sharks and oceans, the rallying of people to stand up for what they love, and the turning of the tide regarding shark fin soup in Hong Kong and beyond. Consumption there has dropped by 70 percent. Unfortunately, the trade numbers are still high, so there is plenty left to do.
Parvati Magazine: What was it like to finish the movie and attend screenings and festivals?
Brock Cahill: Whilst we were very proud to finish the movie in a way that we felt did honour to Rob’s philosophies and legacy, it was excruciating to go through the process without him, to watch him onscreen as large as life, and continually relive the worst day of my life, the day we lost him, over and over again.
Parvati Magazine: One of the notable awards the film received was the Best Educational Value Award at the Green Festival in China. What are Team Sharkwater’s plans to tackle the shark finning industry in China and other countries?
Brock Cahill: We plan to continue shining the flashlight on the fact that shark finning is a brutal and unnecessary practice, but moreover to inspire people to recognize that these animals are a vital keystone species that need our protection, as all other species depend upon sharks for survival. We believe that when people understand sharks’ role as an apex predator, they will insist upon change.
Parvati Magazine: Why is shark so prevalent in our cosmetics, food, and pet food? What’s the problem with this, and why don’t people know about it?
Brock Cahill: Unwillingly and unwittingly, we have created alternative markets for shark products by insisting that sharks be landed whole, with fins attached. This has driven demand and usage for other parts of the shark, creating an even larger shark fishery! We no longer have simply a shark finning problem, but a shark fishing problem. In the last ten years, the number of sharks being fished from the seas has skyrocketed from an estimated 80 to 90 million up toward 150 million sharks! No species can withstand this kind of pressure. This is a two-fold risky proposition. One risk is the ecosystem collapse. [The second is that] sharks, being apex-level predators, amass pollutants and contaminants on a large scale. Several researchers recommend not consuming any shark product at all! And yet it is being hidden and masked in things like fishmeal, then fed to farmed salmon and shrimp, creating toxicity in these species. And masqueraded as rock salmon, flake, bolillo, ocean whitefish, dogfish, surimi, and others, shark is fed to people for human consumption! It is included in our pet foods, our fertilizers, and yes, even cosmetics. Squalene is an emollient found in things like moisturizers and lipsticks, and can be derived in two ways: from soybeans or other similar crops, or from the liver oil of deep-sea sharks.
Parvati Magazine: What are the consequences if shark hunting continues?
Brock Cahill: If shark hunting continues, we put all life on this planet at risk. Without sharks, the balance of the sea ecosystem will topple. Over 50% of the air we breathe exudes from our oceans. We must invest care and consciousness in them, rather than treating them as an exploitable resource.
Parvati Magazine: How do you want Rob’s legacy to live on?
Brock Cahill: We would like to see Rob’s legacy live on in his continual inspiration for people to stand up for what they believe in, to instigate changes in the world. He would insist that we, as ingenuitive human beings, have the capability to do this, and in fact have the moral obligation to do so. This next evolution of humanity is calling on the best in all of us, and this is our chance to step up! We would like to see Rob’s legacy be the inspiration for the new revolution.
Brock Cahill is a cinematic activist and preservation tactician at Team Sharkwater, a longtime friend and dive buddy of Rob Stewart, and the founder of The SeaChange Agency, a non-profit organization which harnesses the collective power of those in the yoga and conscious communities toward ocean conservation.