PACKING IT: Byron Bay's 'Shark Girl' Madison Stewart with a friend.
PACKING IT: Byron Bay's 'Shark Girl' Madison Stewart with a friend.

Sharkwater Extinction at Byron Bay Film Festival

OCEAN conservation will be the message pundits walk out of the Byron Bay Film Festival with on Saturday night.

As part of the Closing Gala event of the festival, documentary film Sharkwater Extinction will air at 6.45pm at the Byron Community Centre.

Sharkwater Extinction is a Canadian production and has previously been aired at various film festivals throughout Canada to resounding success.

The documentary celebrates the life of filmmaker and conservationist Rob Stewart and his tireless efforts to change attitudes around shark finning.

Stewart was taken in 2017 at the age of 37 in a scuba diving incident off the coast of Florida.

He was diving deep-sea wreck Queen of Nassau while in the early days of filming Sharkwater Extinction.

Festival Director J'aimee Skippon-Volke said that Stewart's work in filmmaking and conservation was deeply important.

"We are honoured to be given the opportunity to share Rob's work on one of the most important nights of the festival," Skippon-Volke said.

"The Closing Gala provides a space to reflect on and celebrate the positive impact this remarkable man achieved in his short time here on earth."

Stewart's parents Sandy and Brian were excited to have their son's film aired at the festival.

"Rob loved Byron Bay and would be honoured by this selection and would certainly want it to be a call to action amidst what we are sure will be a true celebration of his life and mission," they said.

"We look forward to bringing the film to the festival before it opens in theatres across Australia."

While a celebration film and an ode to Stewart's 2006 film Sharkwater, 'Extinction' sheds light on the fact that shark finning is still a common practice in some countries, despite being banned by 90 of them.

In some cultures, shark fins are thought to possess unique healing properties and is commonly used in cosmetics, pet food, fertiliser and in soup.

Sharkwater Extinction also sheds light on the barbaric practice of fishing sharks for sport, as even moments out of the water can cause a shark to die.

Byron Bay's resident 'Shark Girl' Madison Stewart works in conservation and part of her job is helping to transition shark fishing boats to tourist boats for snorkelling.

She has historically opposed shark netting around the Byron region.

"They are not going to stop the attacks, they are not going to stop the type of sharks that are hurting people, and they are not the answer," Stewart said.

"Nets don't stop great whites."

Festival-goers can purchase tickets to the Closing Gala at

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