Sharks, most people are afraid of them. Our friends love them so much they jump into the ocean when they see them. Our buddy, Rob Stewart, films them to bring attention to the fact that they are dwindling in number and need to be protected in order to ensure the health of our oceans.
Along with Rob, we traveled to the Bahamas to help him make his new documentary on sharks, Sharkwater Extinction. Our friends, and environmental activists, Brock and Krista Cahill, joined in. The goal was to film the Oceanic Whitetip shark in the vicinity of Cat Island, Bahamas, where they congregate in the month of May. To find the typical spots where these often-feared creatures hang, we enlisted the help of Debra and Vinnie Canabal, with Epic Diving. Debbie doesn’t like to be called the “Shark Whisperer,” but that title definitely describes her. Debbie is a Neuroscientist and her husband, Vinnie, is an Emergency Medical Room Physician. Together with their son, they have named the local sharks, and they regularly dive in to “play” with their shark friends. Their mission is to promote “responsible shark tourism which will break many of the myths that hurt sharks reputation.” They believe that our population won’t be able to protect sharks if people remain indifferent, or continue to demonize them. Debbie and Vinnie make every effort to show sharks in their true element, natural and beautiful, and hope that the experiences of their guests, along with their photos and stories, will help to spread shark advocacy around the globe.
Once the sharks were spotted, Rob quickly dove in with his large underwater camera and he began filming. It didn’t take Brock, Krista, and Scott long to join the shark party. That first day, filming continued all afternoon and into the night.
We ended up feeding nurse sharks by hand off some stone steps at Staniel Cay, Bahamas. Of course, Rob was right there in the water filming their snapping jaws as they gulped down the raw fish.
We went to a spot in the middle of the ocean called Danger Cay. Sharks gather there along with Mahi Mahi, and compete for food thrown overboard from boats. The Mahi usually won! Our first mate, Damian decided to jump in with his snorkel, but he quickly jumped back out. Too many sharks and too much of a frenzy for comfort.
Brock is passionate about saving turtles, and his charity Kurmalliance works to protect the sea turtle with worldwide projects such as building turtle nesting sanctuaries around the world. We were lucky enough to see some sea turtles swimming by, as well as an island inhabited by sea pigs.
Brock, Krista, and Rob are all vegan. Our onboard chef Miss Daisy Von Dutch, a YouTube sensation in the Steampunk genre, was able to prepare gourmet vegan meals for us, (with some added animal protein on occasion for Scott and I.) The healthy and earth friendly vibe of the trip was a real joy for me. Brock and Krista are world renowned yoga instructors, so we were quite fortunate to be able to train under their guidance on a daily basis. We were continuously wowed by their individual practices and their generosity when working with us. Yoga on a moving boat is definitely a challenge!
On Wardwickwells Cay, we saw the skeleton of a whale that had been killed by consuming plastic trash in the ocean. Wherever we traveled, we picked up plastic on the beaches, and we tried to limit how much plastic we used on a daily basis. Brock is involved in the Pluckfastic organization which aims to rid our planet of plastic waste.
Rob plans to promote his upcoming film during Shark Week on Discovery Channel Shark Week and begin a campaign to help him put the finishing touches on the production, which you can help support here: Kickstarter to support Sharkwater Extinction. We all plan to reconvene in Malibu, California in the summer for updates and a reunion.
Addendum: On January 31, 2017 Rob Stewart unexpectedly passed away during a diving accident off the coast of Florida. I was devastated, along with his friends and the diving community. His friend within the film industry vow to complete his film.