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Shark documentary released after filmmaker's diving death

Posted at 3:08 PM, Mar 02, 2019

MIAMI (AP) — The family and friends of a Canadian filmmaker and conservationist who died during a shark-filming excursion in the Florida Keys are releasing his final documentary.

"Sharkwater Extinction" made a limited theatrical release Friday. The DVD is set for release March 19, and the film will stream on Amazon Prime starting in April, Sharkwater Productions said. It was first shown last fall at the Toronto Film Festival.

Rob Stewart's 2006 documentary, "Sharkwater," examined the impact of shark hunting on the ocean's ecosystem. His 2013 film, "Revolution," focused on environmental collapse.

Stewart's father, Brian Stewart, said 120 million people saw his son's first film, prompting bans around the world on shark finning, the practice of cutting the fins off sharks and discarding the rest of the fish. The new film continues to focus on the impact of shark hunting on the environment.

"He had a massive base around the world that wanted to see this movie finished," Brian Stewart said. "And that really kept us going."

Stewart's parents said their 37-year-old son had already filmed about 400 hours of footage when he drowned in January 2017. He went missing while diving at the wreck of the Queen of Nassau in about 230 feet (70 meters) of water and about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the Islamorada coast. His submerged body was found three days later, about 300 feet (90 meters) from where he was last spotted on the surface, following a massive search.

Stewart's mother, Sandra Stewart, said they knew they wanted to complete his final film but weren't initially sure where to start. They eventually found extensive notes on his tablet computer, which were used by editor Nick Hector to complete the film.

"When we found that we realized we could finish this," Sandra Stewart said.

Though "Sharkwater Extinction" might not be precisely what its maker had intended, Brian Stewart explained how his son's meticulous planning allowed them to tell most of the story that his son wanted to tell.

"We have all his notes about all the different locations around the world he wanted to go to and what his objective for each location was," Brian Stewart said. "He wrote outstanding notes."

Rob Stewart might be gone, but his parents said the outpouring of love and support that followed his passing showed them how important his work was. They said they hoped the new film leads to more action and even greater change.

"He wasn't in it for the money," Sandra Stewart said. "He just wanted everybody to see the film, love sharks, fall in love with the ocean creatures and work to protect them."