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Review: ‘Sharkwater Extinction,’ a fitting tribute to Rob Stewart, its late filmmaker

Rob Stewart in a scene from “Sharkwater Extinction.” Credit: Sharkwater Pictures
Late filmmaker Rob Stewart in his last film, the documentary “Sharkwater Extinction.”
(Sharkwater Pictures)

A follow-up to his 2006 documentary “Sharkwater,” Rob Stewart’s incisive “Sharkwater Extinction” also serves as a moving epitaph to the life’s work of the Canadian conservationist-filmmaker who drowned in a scuba diving accident while shooting production footage off the Florida Keys.

While his first film brought international attention to the wholesale exploitation of sharks for their valuable fins, Stewart’s plunge back into those politically murky waters finds that the reasons for the ongoing drastic drop in their population goes far beyond the demand for shark fin soup.

Embarking on an investigative excursion with stops in Central America, Africa and North America, Stewart and his crew make disturbing discoveries, especially in Panama where highly toxic shark catch is being sold to unwitting consumers under the labels of rock salmon and flake, and finding its way into pet food and beauty care products.

Heading to Los Angeles, Stewart also uncovers some of the biggest offenders in our own backyard, where the destructive use of massive drift gillnets, used to trap swordfish, end up snaring a vast amount of unwanted bycatch in the process.

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While Stewart didn’t live to see the enactment of a new California law last fall that will see the phasing out of the practice already banned elsewhere in the world, his passionate documentary, boasting stirring underwater photography and an equally poignant Jonathan Goldsmith score, speaks urgently on his behalf.

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‘Sharkwater Extinction’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes

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Playing: Starts Friday, Arclight Hollywood; also on VOD

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