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NEWS UPDATES 12 June 2010

Hong Kong: Filmmaker crusades against sharkfin soup

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A Canadian filmmaker is hoping to turn Asian consumers away from shark fin soup, with the regional premier of his multi-award winning documentary, as reported by Leslie Tang of Channel NewsAsia

"Sharkwater" made its official Asian premier in full IMAX glory this week, screening to a packed house in Hong Kong.

The multi-award winning documentary took five years to make, and features stunning high-definition underwater footage.

The man behind the movie is 30-year-old Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart, who seeks to dispel media stereotypes of man-eating monsters of the deep.

He was just 22 when he started out, a wildlife photographer with no experience behind a video camera. But things took a different turn.

His team discovered millions of dollars of fins in warehouses allegedly run by the Taiwanese mafia in Costa Rica, where shark fining is illegal.

Mr Stewart says: "A few months into shooting we were charged with attempted murder, the mafia was involved, we running for our lives, I almost lost my leg. And it became this crazy adventure story."

Whether he was nearly killed during the grueling project, Stewart replies: "I got a flesh-eating disease and almost lost my leg. When I came back from the first shoot I had dengue fever, west nile virus and tuberculosis!"

He adds that he "did think about walking away a few times. It got turned down by everybody."

Since its 2007 release in North America, "Sharkwater" has received 35 international awards.

The location for its Asia launch was no coincidence.

Mr Stewart says: "Hong Kong is Grand Central Station in the shark fin trade, it's the biggest shark fin consumption per capita, and we needed to make sure the release here made some impact."

Viewed as a delicacy, shark fins can reel in over US$300 a pound.

But the demand for shark fin soup kills 73 million sharks a year - threatening their existence

Stewart was happy to hear some in Hong Kong already boycott the dish.

He said: "The power rests in the hands of the Asian consumer. If the Asian consumer decides not to eat shark fin soup, we can save sharks. We can save one of the most amazing, important animals the planet has.


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