Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Underwater Filmmakers Present 'Sharkwater' Screening at Washington College

Chestertown, MD — An exclusive viewing of "Sharkwater," a film by experienced diver and underwater photographer Rob Stewart, will be shown at Washington College's Litrenta Lecture Hall on Friday, October 19, at 7:30 p.m.

"Sharkwater" has not been released nationally yet, so this screening will provide the College and local community a unique opportunity to get a first look at the film in this area, followed by a question-and-answer session with the film crew.

The event is being hosted by Washington College's Center for Environment & Society in celebration of the College's Fall Family Weekend and the Chestertown Wildlife Show.

Stewart, who has had a lifelong fascination with sharks, said he made the film in an attempt to debunk historical stereotypes and media depictions of sharks as dangerous creatures; he reveals them as pillars in the evolution of the seas and shows how these magnificent creatures have gone from predator to prey.

A native of Toronto, Stewart joined conservationist Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on a four-month expedition in some of the most shark-rich waters in the world, including Cocos Island, Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and Guatemala, to deter poachers.

"Sharkwater" documents their journey in Guatemala, where they encountered shark poachers and found themselves in a series of life-and-death situations, including pirate boat rammings, gunboat chases, arrests, run-ins with organized crime, corrupt court systems and attempted murder charges that forced them to flee for their lives.

John Seidel, Director of the Center for Environment & Society, said that there were two different themes running throughout the film.

"The film seems to have two tracks," said Seidel. "The first is simply the story of how sharks, which we always think of as endangering us, are endangered by human predation, including long-line fishing, over-exploitation solely for their fins, and through a misplaced fear. The second story line is the human drama of making a film that many people did not want to see made—these included poachers and their business partners, including organized crime, and governments.

"At its heart, however, the film explores the threats to an apex predator, an animal that is the culmination of millions of years of evolution but is now severely threatened by humans," he added.

Seidel said that sharks play an extremely important role in the ecosystem of the ocean and that they are "far more threatened by us than we are by them—somewhere between 50 and 100 million sharks are killed each year, just for their fins.

"What we have been slow to understand is that sharks have a very important place in the world's ocean ecosystems. Their loss would have profound impacts on other species, and this over-fishing is symptomatic of a much larger problem. Oceans cover about 70 percent of our planet, and we can't ignore them just because they're for the most part out of sight. I hope that the people who see this film will appreciate both that threat to sharks and other ocean species, as well as the important role they play in nature, despite our fears. The world would be a much poorer place without them."

Litrenta Lecture Hall is located in the John S. Toll Science Center. The screening is free and open to the public.

October 10, 2007

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