On the evening of January 27th, 2018, Khala Cloths participated in the green marketplace for a FINS Attached fundraising event in Denver, CO. More than just a gala gathering, this event was a one-year observance of the death of revolutionary filmmaker, Rob Stewart, whose film Sharkwater had fundamentally changed the way that individuals as well as nations viewed the ecological importance of sharks. On hand were Shepherd's parents, Brian and Sandy Stewart, and diving partner and fellow filmmaker, Brot Cahill, to share clips from the sequel to Stewart's breakthrough film, Sharkwater: Extinction. Shepherd's father did not mince words when he emphasized how still-threatened sharks - and other sea life - were by finning and other sustainable fishing operations.
To that effect, the evening was also an occasion for leading researchers in shark behavior and conservation in Mexico and Costa Rica such as Dr. Mauricio Hoyos, Commissionar Alejandro Del Mazo Maza, and Randall Auraz, to share their findings and insight. Upon sharing rare footage of sharks mating off Socorro Island, Dr. Hoyos joked "love hurts" and the audience had a relieving chuckle after so much consternation over the fate of ocean life and the untimely death of Rob Stewart. "The information is there, we just have to push it!" Auraz emphasized after his presentation on Costa Rican efforts to ban finning and drift nets, leaving everyone in the audience inspired to amplify shark and oceanic conservation efforts.
The Keynote speaker was Captain Paul Watson, known for his radical methods for stymying seal and whale hunting, as well as shark finning. A paradoxical activist, Watson is as controversial as he is inspiring, and his remarks delivered that evening were a mixture of both.
"I'm not an ecoterrorist," he joked at one point, "I've never worked for Monsanto."
The bulk of Watson's speech was to call out humanity for its "anthropocentric and economic values" that lead not just to the extermination of "these creatures [such as sharks and other non-human life]" but to an invisibilization of them: "we have forgotten that they were even there." As we think so much about Planet Earth, Watson reminded those of us in the audience that we should also think of it as "Planet Ocean," for "our life support is the ocean - if it dies, we all die." Particular to sharks, "everything in the ocean is moulded by the evolutionary presence and pressure" of them.
Watson then recalled what Rob Stewart taught through his films, "the real value of this earth are the creatures that make it up."
After this emotional-yet-enervating keynote, the fundraiser wrapped up and we were lucky enough to join Watson and crew, the Stewarts and Cahill for drinks afterward. In addition to learning so much more about their history and efforts for oceanic and shark conservation, we were able to them with their own set of Khala Cloths to assist with their ongoing efforts to protect and respect the planet - especially when it comes to plastic pollution in the ocean.
Though Khala Cloths is based in the land-locked state of Colorado, this evening hit home how much our efforts can spread to ecosystems and environmental awareness across Planet Ocean.