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Laramie Movie Scope: Sharkwater

A documentary about overfishing the oceans

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 23, 2008 -- This documentary features beautiful underwater photography and a stirring call to action for the people of the world to do something about the destruction of the entire ocean's ecosystem by over-fishing. This documentary was written and directed by Rob Stewart, an expert diver and underwater photographer, who also shot much of the film's footage. Sharks, as the ocean's top predators, play an essential role in that ecosystem, it is argued. The destruction of all shark species, primarily to satisfy an upsurge in demand for shark fin soup, is just one example of a world market for fish gone mad. The film also argues that sharks are not very dangerous (tell that to survivors of the USS Indianapolis) and it even shows Rob Stewart hugging a shark underwater.

Despite its clearly one-sided view of the shark issue, this film is a real eye-opener as we see huge numbers of shark fins harvested and put on the roofs of buildings in plain sight to dry, in a country that has laws against such harvests. We see the incredible waste of shark fin harvesting in which only the fins are taken, while the animal is alive. The rest of the body is thrown back into the ocean to die. We see a battle on the open sea between a fishing boat illegally harvesting sharks in protected waters and the Ocean Warrior, a boat operated by the Los Angeles-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which is trying to stop illegal fishing. We also see the unlikely outcome of that confrontation in a foreign courtroom.

There are also tales of a strange “Shark fin mafia.” There is a dramatic run to the freedom of the open sea by the Ocean Warrior and its crew in the face of a seemingly corrupt legal system that protects poachers and prosecutes those who would enforce legitimate fishing limits. Rob Stewart spent four months aboard the Ocean Warrior filming segments used in this movie in the waters off in Costa Rica and Ecuador. This journey includes the Ocean Warrior being rammed by a pirate boats. Despite the fact that the Ocean Warrior had been invited by the Costa Rican government to patrol the waters around the Island of Cocos, the captain found himself charged with seven counts of attempted murder after a confrontation with a fishing vessel. Stewart himself was hospitalized with a life-threatening infection. We see something like the Wild West in International Waters where there is no law enforcement to protect fish species. In some ways this is a crude, disjointed film, but there is no denying its power, or the beauty of its exquisite underwater photography. This film rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2008 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)