Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Prayer for Rob Stewart

Rob in Saipan
I'm one of the many people whose life was enriched by knowing Rob Stewart.  I met Rob about six years ago on Saipan.  He worked on sharks, I worked on sharks.  We were destined to be friends.

Most of us will never have the impact that Rob's life had.  In the five years that I worked in shark conservation, I heard over and over from people in more than a dozen countries how it was Rob that had first told them about the plight of the world's sharks.  I heard Richard Branson say this with my own ears.

Rob helped kick off the modern shark conservation movement with his film Sharkwater.  He helped a sixth grade class on Saipan protect sharks, and then he helped a group of kids on Guam do the same on their island.  His vision to protect sharks spread across the world, but first it spread across Micronesia, where today all sharks are protected in an area as large as the United States.  But his work was not yet finished when he passed away.

Losing Rob is devastating, and it will take scores of us to carry on with the burden he took on at such a young age.  But we will carry it, and we will remember Rob.  And in carrying on with his life's mission, we will become better, and stronger, and we will think of him when we eventually succeed.

Rob was already a celebrity by the time I met him, but other than the giggling high school teachers -- yes, teachers, not students -- you wouldn't have known it.  He was just a dorky kid who really loved sharks and the ocean, and wanted to share that love with the rest of the world.

Rob inspired people all across the globe, and we share in the sorrow that his family and friends face today.  I hope that they find solace in knowing that although Rob is gone, he will not be forgotten, and his life's work will carry on.

A few years ago, Rob agreed to be an ambassador for Shark Stanley, my little project to help protect sharks through shark sanctuaries and other means.  I asked Rob what advice he would give to aspiring filmmakers and conservationists, and this is what he said: "Take the first step, don't be afraid.  Lean in.  By working for good, for life, or for conservation, your task will call out the best in you.  There has never been a better time to be a filmmaker or conservationist and the world has never needed you more."

This is even more true today.

Rob in Guam
Rob's funeral is this Saturday in Toronto at the Bloor Street United Church at 1 PM.  There will be a celebration of his life following the funeral.

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