Rob Stewart, award-winning documentarian, environmentalist and champion of sharks, was filming underwater off the Florida Keys in search of sawfish. Because sawfish are notoriously shy and easily scared off by bubbles and the noise from traditional SCUBA equipment, he was using a rebreather that recycles exhaled carbon dioxide into breathable air. This equipment was new to Stewart, although he had been trained to use it. He was a strong swimmer and experienced diver. But something went wrong.
Stewart’s body was found on the seabed three days after he was reported missing.
Still reeling from Stewart’s sudden death at the age of 37, his friends in Malibu and around the world are determined to carry on fighting his fight.
Activist and ocean conservationist Brock Cahill was with Stewart on that last trip.
“Rob has been my dive buddy, brother in fins and best friend for the last decade. Rob’s legacy is to endear people to sharks, oceans, the natural world and humanity itself,” Cahill said. “He taught us to live in harmony with nature, rather than to conquer it. If we are to survive on this planet, we must embody Rob’s philosophy.”
There has been a global outpouring of love since Stewart’s death was reported last month — and a shared grief at the enormity of his loss to the environment.
“His work will definitely continue,” Cahill said. “I, along with so many others who have been inspired by and loved Robbie, have dedicated our lives to picking up the torch. His films ‘Sharkwater’ and ‘Revolution’ give us a blueprint from which we can spring into action and change the world.”
Composer Jeff Rona scored the music for “Sharkwater” and “Revolution.”
“Rob had a way of igniting people’s emotions and pulled them into his amazing world,” Rona said. “He was truly magnetic, and filled with pure love that people responded to instantly. He lived hard, played hard, and worked harder. He wanted to get his message out to the world — that we mustn’t take life for granted, that we must act consciously to preserve it.”
Regarding his concept for the music, Stewart said this to Rona: “I want people to see the incredible beauty of our planet, so they will know what they’ll miss if it’s gone.”
“Rob leaves not just a legacy of his works,” Rona described, “but a guiding light for us to follow. To embrace the positive, be agents for change and to ask ourselves each day what more we can do to be a part of the answer.”
Stewart’s friends and colleagues weighed in on his legacy.
“Rob was one of the few documentary filmmakers whose work inspired and awed. He was bold and fearless, like the sharks he was dedicated to protect,” fellow filmmaker Stephanie Smith said. “Robbie risked his life to get up close in order to bring light to the horrors of our rapidly disappearing sea life. His striking and disturbing images helped to make the world a better place. A true humanitarian, I will miss this sweet, one-of-a-kind man. He’s a great loss to the planet.”
Speaking from her Malibu home, environmental activist, philanthropist and producer Shari Sant Plummer recalled Stewart’s legendary full moon parties at his home on Las Flores.
“Rob was extremely likable,” she said. “He had an aura about him. So big-hearted, generous, kind and compassionate. And he was fun.”
One of the producers of “Sharkwater: Extinction” (Stewart’s follow-up to his global hit “Sharkwater”), Plummer confirmed that this documentary will be completed. The filming was almost finished when Stewart died.
“Rob was an accomplished photographer and an incredible cinematographer,” Plummer said. “He was dynamic and brilliant.”
The first “Sharkwater” film led to bans on shark finning and spawned a movement to save sharks, creatures Stewart believed are unfairly maligned and misunderstood. Plummer said Stewart had a favorite fact: “In 2016, five people were killed by sharks, while 709 were killed by faulty toasters.”
In “Sharkwater: Extinction” Stewart will bring audiences even closer to sharks with stunning underwater photography as he reveals what happens to the 150 million sharks that are killed every year. Stewart’s mission was to get shark products out of our cosmetics, pet food, livestock feed, vaccines, fertilizer and fast food.
Rob Stewart’s family has held a memorial service in his native Canada. Another memorial is being organized in Malibu.
Stewart’s death is the subject of an ongoing investigation, the results of which won’t be known for some months. Plummer, an experienced diver herself, said, “It’s my hope that Rob lost consciousness and slipped peacefully into his favorite place on Earth, quietly drifting to the bottom of the ocean.”
For more information about Rob Stewart, visit: sharkwater.com