Parents of Canadian shark filmmaker have hope for missing son


Feb 2 (Reuters) - The parents of award-winning Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart, an environmental activist campaigning to protect sharks, said on Thursday they hoped his experience in the water can help him survive after he went missing off the Florida coast this week.

Stewart, 37 disappeared on Tuesday after a deep water dive to retrieve an anchor. His dive partner collapsed after returning to the boat, while Stewart, who signaled he was OK when he surfaced, later went missing, they said.

"If anybody can survive in the water, it is him," Brian Stewart, his father said in a telephone interview, adding his son is "super fit" and a highly skilled scuba diver.

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Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart
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Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart

Director Rob Stewart, winner of the 'Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award for Documentary Film' attends the 28th Santa Barbara International Film Festival Awards Breakfast on February 3, 2013 in Santa Barbara, California.

(Photo by Rebecca Sapp/WireImage)

Filmmakers Rob Stewart and Jeff Orlowski pose for a photo at The Ocean Gala on December 3, 2016 in San Francisco, California.

(Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for The Ocean Gala)

Rob Stewart attending the 2013 Tiff Film Festival Gala Red Carpet Premiere for Third Person at the Visa Screening Room on September 9, 2013 in Toronto, Canada.

(Photo by Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images)

Director Rob Stewart attends the Variety Studio at Chivas House on May 17, 2013 in Cannes, France.

(Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Variety)

Filmmaker Rob Stewart and Anouk Baijings arrives at 'Revolution' Canadian Premiere at Scotia Bank Theatre on April 11, 2013 in Toronto, Canada.

(Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)

Director Rob Stewart attends the Modern Master Award presented To Ben Affleck at the 28th Santa Barbara International Film Festival on January 25, 2013 in Santa Barbara, California.

(Photo by Rebecca Sapp/WireImage)

Director Rob Stewart attends the Variety Studio at Chivas House on May 17, 2013 in Cannes, France.

(Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Variety)

SBIFF programmer Michael Albright and Director Rob Stewart, winner of the 'Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award for Documentary Film' attends the 28th Santa Barbara International Film Festival Awards Breakfast on February 3, 2013 in Santa Barbara, California.

(Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)

Director of the film 'Revolution' Rob Stewart attends the 28th Santa Barbara International Film Festival on January 28, 2013 in Santa Barbara, California.

(Photo by Rebecca Sapp/WireImage)

Filmmaker Rob Stewart arrives at the Entertainment One Celebrates 29 Films At TIFF during the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival at The Roundhouse on September 9, 2013 in Toronto, Canada.

(Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Director Rob Stewart and director Gus Van Sant attend the 28th Santa Barbara International Film Festival Montecito Award on January 26, 2013 in Santa Barbara, California.

(Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)

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"A bunch of the people in the boat gave their attention to the guy who collapsed and a minute later they turned, and Rob was gone. They haven't seen him since," he said.

At the time of the incident, Rob Stewart was filming a new documentary called "Sharkwater: Extinction," which he was aiming to show at the Toronto International Film Festival later this year, his parents said.

The U.S. Navy, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Florida wildlife officials, a county sheriff's office and civilian volunteers have joined the Coast Guard in the search for Stewart that is using ships, helicopters, airplanes and dive teams, the Coast Guard said.

His mother, Sandy Stewart, said support was pouring in from all over the world.

Rob Stewart's 2006 documentary "Sharkwater" was aimed at exposing the shark hunting industry that was feeding demand for fins, a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. The hunting has ravaged shark populations and the film was part of a campaign that helped persuade some governments to crackdown on finning.

With finning, typically the fins are cut off and the live shark is tossed back into the sea. Unable to swim properly, the shark suffocates or is killed by predators.

Stewart said his new film was looking at other ways that as many as 80 million sharks are being harvested each year for items ranging from cosmetics to pet food.

"Sharks are sophisticated, intelligent and often shy creatures that aren't interested in eating humans," he said in a video seeking funding for his new movie.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Tom Brown and Andrew Hay)


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