“We’re in the critical window of daylight right after he’s gone missing where, if we’re going to find him on the surface — where we’d like to find him — it’s going to be today,” Stewart’s sister, Alexandra Stewart, said in an emotional interview with CBC Toronto on Wednesday morning.
Stewart is best known for his 2006 documentary Sharkwater, an examination of globalshark-hunting and its impact on the ocean ecosystem, and was active in underwater filming.
Michael Parfit, an environmental writer and filmmaker based in Vancouver, said Stewart routinely takes risks while diving because he has been “so driven to knowthese animals and transmit what he knows to the public.”
A deep dive comes with potential dangers, said Parfit, but it’s “nothing unusual.”
Family in Florida as volunteer help sought
Stewart’s sister, who is currently in Toronto, said the siblings’ parents and her husband are in Florida right now and in constant contact with search teams.
“If there are other people out there, what we desperately need are more surface searchers,” she said.
Stewart’s sister stressed his love for the environment, something evident in his work as a filmmaker.
“He has a deep love for the ocean, and wildlife, and our planet and people, and trying to make the world a betterplace,” she said, her voice breaking.
“And he really saw this as where he could make his unique mark, and I think we’ve seen that over his life. What he’s done for shark finning and illegal fishing has been tremendous.”
Dustin Titus, who has known Stewart for more than a decade, also praised his passion for conservation.
Stewart’s work resonates “around the globe,” said Titus, a member of the board of directors for the United Conservationists Society of Canada.
The conservation community is experiencing “a lot of nervousness” over Stewart’s disappearance, he added. “Everyone’s really scared.”
Stewart’s films have won dozens of awards
Sharkwater premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and has since won more than 40 awards at film festivals around the world.
Stewart’s second film, Revolution, was the highest-grossing Canadian documentary in 2013 and won 19 awards from global film festivals.
Sharkwater was a runaway hit, winning dozens of awards and raking in more than $ 1.6 million US worldwide. (Freestyle Releasing)
Stewart was born and raised in Toronto, and studied biology at Western University in London, Ont.
He is also considered one of the “distinguished alumni” of Toronto’s Crescent School, which he attended from grades 7 to 9, and where he has since returned to speak to studentsabout his work in marine conservation.
“Our thoughts are with Rob’s family and we share their hope for his safe return,” the school said in a statement.
“We are looking forward to having him back because the world needs him,” echoed Parfit.