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+.
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