Rob Stewart’s Rising Revolution

If a great white shark were to swim into your thoughts, most of us will think of the movie Jaws. We picture terrifying razor-sharp teeth eager to rip us to shreds. Sharks are the most feared predator in the oceans’ waters. When you Google the word shark, the second search item is “shark attack.” So why not kill them off? In fact, they are currently being wiped off our planet. So much so, that they are headed towards extinction. Shark populations have dropped 90% in just 40 years. It is estimated that up to a whopping 150 million sharks are being killed every year for human consumption. That means 410 959 sharks are killed each day. Those are some jaw-dropping statistics. But why should anyone care about saving sharks? A Toronto-born biologist, activist, filmmaker, and eco-warrior named Rob Stewart has been on a mission to tell us why.

At the early age of 8, Rob had his first shark encounter and fell in love with the species. Over the years, Rob discovered that sharks were nothing like what we had been taught growing up. Rather, Rob describes sharks as “sophisticated, intelligent, often shy creatures that are not interested in eating humans.” His shark experiences were so peaceful that he often stroked and even hugged them. Sharks have been on our planet for over 450 million years — before dinosaurs roamed the Earth. As an apex predator, sharks are integral to the oceans’ ecosystems. They keep our oceans healthy by balancing out the numbers of our oceans’ species. And our oceans’ species are responsible for giving us half of the oxygen in the air that we breathe. The oceans are the most important ecosystem for human survival, providing oxygen, regulating the climate, and feeding billions of people. On average, sharks kill five people per year. That is less deaths than people killed by lightning or falling out of bed. Now compare that to humans killing 150 million sharks per year. As Rob clearly pointed out, “The truth is that sharks have much more to fear from us.”

A huge reason sharks are being killed at alarming rates is for shark fin soup. A very expensive delicacy considered a Chinese tradition. To get shark fins (their limbs), a shark is caught, its fins hacked off, and then it is thrown back into the ocean to die an agonizing slow death on the ocean floor.
Paul Watson, activist and founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, described seeing [the shark’s] “shocked eyes open, allowing us, for a moment, to glimpse their pain as the spark of life was slowly extinguished.” On top of finning being cruel and a complete waste of almost the entire shark’s body, fins are tasteless and have no nutritional value.

Believing that “information can change the world,” the eco-warrior set out to shine a spotlight on the catastrophic plight of sharks and state of our oceans through two award-winning documentaries: Sharkwater and Revolution. Once Rob discovered that sharks were not only being killed for shark fin soup, but were also being massacred for our daily consumption of products such as lipsticks, moisturizers, and pet food, he set out to blow the whistle to the world in the upcoming Sharkwater Extinction. Tragically, Rob died earlier this year during one of his deep dive missions. There is a current wrongful death lawsuit in effect by his family claiming negligence by the diving organizers. A third – and unplanned – deep dive of approximately 220 feet below the surface took place because the organizers had asked Rob and his diving companion to retrieve a $15 grappling hook… Rob was not retrieved from the water as soon as he surfaced. He passed out from a lack of oxygen and then drowned. Many argue this was clearly a senseless and preventable death. Rob leaves behind more than a legacy of his love of sharks. He leaves behind some chilling words and a plea for help:

“We’re facing a world by 2050 that has no fish, no reefs, no rainforest, and 9 billion people on a planet that already can’t sustain 7 billion people. So it’s going to be a really dramatic century unless we do something about it. … We must act now and we need your help.”

Rob’s legacy is already apparent in Canada. Although, shark finning has been illegal in Canadian waters since 1994, the sale and importation of shark fins is legal. In April of this year, the Toronto council voted 38 to 4 in support of federal government Bill S-238, the Ban on Shark Fin Importation Act. This is a step in the right direction to push Canada to take an integral part in shark protection and conservation. Canada’s Clean50 2018 awards is also honouring Rob’s legacy. The awards recognize Canada’s leaders in sustainability for their contributions over a two-year period. Rob will posthumously receive Clean50’s first ever Lifetime Achievement award on September 28, 2017 in Toronto. In the words of Rob’s father, Brian Stewart, “Rob’s passion was to create a world where we’re an army with nature. This is his legacy.” It is up to each of us to keep his legacy alive.

Together, let’s protect our sharks – now. You can donate here to a special WWF page dedicated to Rob:;jsessionid=00000000.app334a?df_id=1834&mfc_pref=T&1834.donation=form1&NONCE_TOKEN=364873E12D35C0A73F0A49179AF62D5A

Please watch the kickstarter trailer for Sharkwater Extinction.




Time for Another Noah’s Ark?

As we go about our busy daily lives, we understandably often forget that we are part of a much bigger picture. To stay connected, we might watch the news. Our news, however, is largely focused on what is happening to our fellow humans. What is gravely lacking from the media is a continuous reminder that we are not alone. No, I am not referring to aliens, but they may as well be unless you live like Tarzan. I am speaking about our fellow species. Other than our pets, we are not exposed to many of our fellow land and ocean species. Since they are not part of our daily lives, how many of us realize that we are we silently witnessing an animal apocalypse? We are currently in the world’s 6th mass extinction phase. All caused by humans and climate change. And the latter is caused by humans as 97% of climate scientists agree. It was just discovered that, due to warmer waters induced by climate change, 900 miles of the Great Barrier Reef has been severely bleached. Most of it happened in 2016 alone. This is a shocking travesty. The current list of endangered species is well beyond alarming. Some of the large mammals may have caught our attention: an elephant is brutally poached for its tusks every 15 minutes; tigers are cruelly killed for their skins and parts; rhinos are now being savagely killed in sanctuaries and zoos for their horns. Many people, including Trump and his administration, think animals and the environment exist on this planet purely for human purposes. Once protected in the U.S., animals such as bears and wolves are now allowed to be killed while sleeping in their dens with their babies. Companies are now allowed to extract natural resources from U.S. national reserves. A list of public animal abusers has now been concealed by the U.S. government.


Overfished species are facing extinction including those that get caught in illegal fishing nets, such as the beautiful vaquita. With less than 60 left on our planet, it is the most endangered marine mammal in the world. That title used to belong to the baiji, the Yangtze River freshwater dolphin, until it became EXTINCT in 2006… I have not even scratched the overwhelming surface of the animals we are affecting, let alone plants and insects. So amidst all of the darkness and downpour of despair, is there any ray of hope for the future of Earth’s species? Or is it time to build another Noah’s Ark?


I believe that there is still hope. Here are some uplifting reasons that keeps hope alive:

  • Something incredible is happening in some courts around the world. The intrinsic value of nature and wildlife is being recognized. They are being granted the same rights as human beings. For example, in India, dolphins living in captivity have been given “nonhuman rights.” Aquariums and waterparks exploiting dolphins have been banned since 2013. In November 2016, Cecelia, a captive zoo chimpanzee in Argentina, was given nonhuman status so that she could live out her remaining years in a sanctuary. The Nonhuman Rights Project is the only civil rights organization in the U.S. that actively works through litigation “to secure legally recognized fundamental rights for nonhuman animals.” The organization is currently fighting for Tommy and Kiko, two captive chimps featured in their popular documentary. Physical landscapes have also been given rights. In March 2017, an Indian court granted the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, sacred to Hindus, the same protective rights as people. Also in March 2017, New Zealand’s parliament granted human legal status to the Whanganui river, which is sacred to the Maori people.
  • After much public outcry and tireless efforts from organizations, China has finally decided to take action to help the elephant crisis. The government has held public displays of burning ivory to take a stand against the ivory market. In December 2016, China announced that all ivory trade would be shut down by the end of 2017. Ivory factories are closing and the government is assisting carvers to transition to other work. The consequence of this monumental decision is already showing in ivory sales. Save the Elephants reported that in 2014, the wholesale price of ivory was $1200 per kilogram. A few months into 2017, the price has dropped to $730. That is great news for elephants!
  • In Thailand this year, thanks to increased anti-poaching efforts, a new breeding population of the critically endangered Indochinese tiger was found—with six cubs! In Australia, a search is now on for the Tasmanian tiger, once believed to be extinct.
  • There are many #RESIST campaigns in the U.S. and they keep on growing. People have decided that they will not let the new government detrimentally harm the environment and wildlife. They are making their voices heard and are taking concrete actions to fight back.
  • And what about our little vaquita? The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is taking the reins to save this species by partnering with the government of Mexico with Operation Milagro III. Milagro means “miracle” in Spanish—appropriate since they are trying desperately to save it from being wiped off of our planet forever.

Hopefully I have inspired you to feel hope as well. Hope, however, is not enough. ACTION from caring people is what has made all of this possible. Imagine what we could do if more people got onboard. So how about we all agree that we never allow our animals to board another Noah’s Ark because they all belong right here beside us—as rightful citizens of planet Earth and with rights of their own to live and thrive. There is no time to waste as the extinction clock is ticking. Together, let’s protect nature and our nonhuman friends—now.




Cry of the Wolf: Howling to Be Heard


Wolves. Iconic and undeniably beautiful. They are shown as symbols of strength, danger, and ferocity. At a young age, we are taught to fear wolves through werewolf myths and the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. We see imagery of packs of wolves running through forests with a thirst for human blood. It is so ingrained in our history and society that terrorists are referred to as “packs of wolves,” or if acting alone, “a lone wolf.” These could not be bigger insults to wolves. This is because wolves are terribly misunderstood. The majority of wolves fear humans. Far more wolves are killed by humans than wolves have ever killed humans. In fact, more dogs have killed humans than wolves. Wolves kill for survival. They are so intelligent, that in colder climates, they may kill more prey than they can eat because the food will preserve in the snow. They return in the spring when the meat is thawed out. Wolves are highly skilled hunters and have unparalleled patience to attack at just the right moment. They communicate and work strategically as a team led by the alpha male. It is said that the great warrior and conqueror Genghis Khan learned his military strategies and combat methods from observing wolves. This allowed him to defeat large armies with only a few men.

Wolves are social, loyal, and mate for life. They are very family oriented. When travelling in a pack, the first wolves in line are the old and the sick. They determine the pace of the pack or else they would be left behind. They are followed by a few strong members, the rest of the pack, and a few more strong members. The alpha male is last allowing him to watch over the entire pack. wolf travel lineMany First Nations cultures respect, learn from, and revere the wolf. They create totems in its honour. Wolf is one of the most powerful animal spirit guides. Being an essential predator, wolves are integral to the health of ecosystems. They are so integral, that when the near-extinct wolf was re-introduced in Yellowstone National Park in 1995, the elk population stabilized and many species rebounded. The wolves even changed the rivers! See how by watching the fascinating short video below.

Wolves are endangered. In B.C., wolves are being blamed and killed for the decline in caribou populations, rather than from habitat destruction. They are also killed when found roaming near irresponsible campers who leave out their garbage. In the U.S., wolves are largely over-hunted because issuing hunting permits brings in big bucks. In 2011, wolves were delisted from endangered status in six states. Consequently, as of April 2016, over 4200 wolves have been slaughtered for sport-hunting alone. Wolves are also largely killed “to protect livestock” – even when they are not near or preying on livestock. The irony is, if you take out a pack member, the pack becomes weaker and increases the likelihood of it preying on livestock. Wolves are gunned down, trapped, snared, and shot from helicopters after being chased to the pWildlife-Services-Shoots-Wolf-From-Air-in-Idaho-Photo-USDAoint of collapsed exhaustion. Entire packs have been wiped out. This killing is federally funded by the Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services – what environmentalists call a “secret agency.” In 2015 alone, the USDA’s report showed that Wildlife Services killed a whopping 3.2 million wild animals! And many kills go unreported. These alarming statistics are being called a “wildlife bloodbath.” As part of this, environmental groups state that the wolf-killing program is outdated, “senseless and cruel.” To make matters worse, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pressuring to delist the grey wolf from the endangered species list nationwide. It is feared that this would spell certain doom for wolves.

I’ve recently had the privilege of visiting two beautiful rescue wolves and hearing them howl. It was soul-stirring. And it was a reminder that they are howling to be heard. If you would like to help the survival of these magnificent animals, please “howl” alongside our wolf friends by speaking out and taking action. Together, let’s protect our wolves – now.

You can take action here:


Book: Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong)

It’s Time to Seal the Deal on the Seal Hunt

baby seal

Updated April 5, 2017

Everyone loves spring. The trees awaken, the flowers bloom, and most of us feel an extra “spring” in our step. Unfortunately, with every spring also comes the Canadian commercial seal hunt. It is beyond comprehension to many of us that this barbaric and immensely cruel practice continues today. And yet these gentle, utterly defenseless, and beautiful animals that are already greatly suffering from climate change seen by the alarming shrinking ice floes, are also suffering the world’s largest marine mammal slaughter. The great Canadian shame – its once pristine white ice floes vastly stained with seal blood. Fishermen from rural Newfoundland and Labrador travel to the floes to club, shoot, bludgeon, and skin East Coast harp, hooded, and grey seals. The iconic white and fluffy harp seal pup with gorgeous big black eyes, seen pictured above, is at risk of being brutally killed once it sheds its white coat a mere two weeks later. About 95% of seals that are killed are very young – between three weeks and three months old. Footage has captured the unbelievable cruelty of many seals even being skinned alive…

So why are seals being killed? From 1983 to 1995, about 55 000 seals were killed annually for profit. For the 1996 hunt, the federal government increased the quota (total allowable catch) on commercial seal hunting and provided subsidies to encourage sealing. A whopping 267 000 seals were killed that year. The root of the government’s plan was to find a new way for East Coast fishermen to make a living since the cod fishing industry had collapsed. Cod was almost overfished to extinction. Using the seals as scapegoats, the government blamed the seals for eating all the cod. This gave them a “good” reason to promote sealing as alternate employment. Scientists and biologists have agreed that cod is only a small percentage of a seal’s diet. Furthermore, seals consume the predators of cod which balances out the ocean’s food web. Healthy fisheries need healthy and prosperous seal populations. Despite these scientific facts, the brutal seal hunt carries on as a deceitful and failing means of alleviating the collapse of a cod fishery brought on by the fishers themselves. By 2015, the quota was a staggering 468 000. How many seals were actually killed in 2015? Statistics show about 35 000, lower than previous years due to the sealing industry declining. That is still 35 000 too many. In 2016, reports that the quota was 400 000 and sealers killed over 66 000 harp seal pups. That’s almost double the kills from 2015. But clearly, and thankfully, the quotas are not matching up with reality. However, there is still no justification for such high quotas and for killing so many innocent wild animals.

What is the seal market and who is buying seal products? The Canadian government has tried to create markets for seal meat, oil, and fur. Fur seems to be the only market and demand is low. Seal penises have also been sold to the Asian market to be used as an aphrodisiac. Sealers catch seals, cruelly cut off their penises, and throw them back into the ocean. The demand for seal penis has dropped with the invention of Viagara. But on the whole, the world has said no to the seal hunt and to importing seal products. Russia and the countries of the European Union are among the 35 countries supporting a ban on Canadian seal products. Despite the ban and low demand, the sealing industry has received over $50 million dollars in government funding since 1996. This industry would not exist if it weren’t for government subsidies. So Canadian tax dollars are funding this brutal slaughter. In addition, the government spends five times more to administer the hunt than the value it receives in exports. Some sealers defend sealing as part of their livelihood and culture, but opinions show that 75% of Newfoundland and Labrador residents agree it’s time to help sealers transition into other employment.

sealing2So how do we save our seals and end the senseless slaughter? We can collectively keep pressuring our government like other countries are doing. Write to the federal government and/or donate to help fund organizations whose aim is to protect seals, such as IFAW and Here are two links to pre-written letters to our Prime Minister and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans that you can sign today. The IFAW letter is for Canadians only and the Humane Society International letter is for anyone who opposes the Canadian seal hunt:

Seals are dying needlessly for a dying industry. And sometimes we just need to take a look at our compassion and ethics – not our economics. It is well past the time for Canada’s commercial, non-Aboriginal seal hunt to end. Together, let’s protect our seals – now.


(Sources: ; ; ; ; )

Compassion for Wildlife: Call for Cultural Change

bird bottle

The more I learn out about animal suffering, wildlife crime, and extinction, the more it is revealed that a large lack of global compassion is key. And culture also has a very strong link in this dire chain. Speaking about cultural issues can be taboo, but we need to lift that veil when lives and entire species are at stake. I say this not to be culturally insensitive, but because it is a matter of sheer urgency. Countless animals are being harmed and killed, and many to the brink of extinction. We are currently in the world’s 6th mass extinction phase – all human-caused. Why is the killing occurring on such as mass scale? For one, our human population has reached 7 billion. So if there is mass demand, there is mass killing. But what is the demand? A tiny glimpse would show elephants for their tusks, rhinos for their horns, sharks for their fins, tigers for their skins and parts, pangolins for their scales and meat, and endangered exotic birds for pets. Illegal wildlife trafficking makes much of this possible. Animals also suffer greatly in the capturing or killing process. Turning a blind eye doesn’t make any of this less true. Exotic birds are stuffed into small plastic bottles to be smuggled, pangolins are piled up on top of each other only to then have their scales plucked one by one and die an agonizing slow death…


Food, items and pets for the wealthy, and traditional medicine are all driving the demand for endangered species. Ancient beliefs are deeply rooted within many Asian cultures. In 2015, leading traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) companies announced supporting the protection of endangered species and pledged zero tolerance towards the illegal wildlife trade. However, the black market for TCM products are still in full swing. For example, the demand for rhino horns is steadily increasing. Rhino horns are said to have healing purposes, however horns are made of keratin, like our fingernails, which have no healing properties. Asiatic bears are farmed for their bile juice to fight fevers and cleanse livers. Animal penises are consumed for aphrodisiac purposes. There is no scientific evidence to prove any of these claims. Despite this, China’s TCM industry raked in a staggering $60 billion in 2012.

The bottom line is nothing can justify any inhumane action. Furthermore, this is all simply unsustainable. Extinction is the proof. For example, China’s Yangtze River dolphin that lived on our planet for over 20 million years became extinct in 2006. As China continues to exploit inside and outside of its own borders, the fate of this defenseless dolphin species is surely to be the fate of other species if nothing changes. Despite the Chinese government making some efforts to ban certain illegal trading in wildlife, it needs to take further leadership, as do other governments. And with world-wide pressure, there is a greater chance that governments will act. Any country or culture that contributes towards the plight of animals must undergo a cultural shift. Ultimately, the Earth needs a collective global cultural shift towards compassion. We need to educate, sensitize, speak out for the voiceless, and encourage when we can. Let’s pay homage to the Yangtze River dolphin to never lose another species from our planet again. Together, let’s protect our species – now.

Yangtze River dolphin


Bringing Back the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. And it is no wonder why it is on that select list. It is Australia’s and the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem. The colourful reef stretches about 2500 km and is comprised of hundreds of islands. It is so massive, that it is the only living entity that can be seen from space. And not only is it stunningly beautiful and attracting tourists from all over the world, but it is an incredible and intricate ecosystem. Thousands of species live in the reef including corals, fish, birds, sea turtles, manta rays, sharks, whales, and dolphins. And let’s not forget all the species of plankton, worms, and insects that are integral to the chain of marine life. The Great Barrier Reef is a sub-aquatic metropolis, home to some of the most diverse animals on Earth.

Another fascinating fact is that every year, the reef attracts over one million migrating animals. They travel far and wide to visit the reef to refuel, mate, have offspring, and even get groomed by the reef’s resident species. Yes, some spa action happens underwater. For example, manta rays will travel hundreds of kilometres and stop at Lady Elliot Island to have small fish remove their dead skin and parasites. It’s a win-win situation since the fish love eating that “delicious” food.

The reef has sustained much turmoil over its 500 000 year lifespan, from ice ages to tropical storms. But it has always managed to regenerate itself over time. An incredibly alarming fact today is that we’ve lost 50% of the Great Barrier Reef since the 1980s. An intricate ecosystem that has taken hundreds of thousands of years to form has been wiped out by half in a few short decades. Why? Intense tourism and pollution play a part. But the biggest culprit is climate change. Our oceans absorb about 30% of the carbon dioxide we produce. The absorption is warming and acidifying the oceans. Warmer temperatures plus acid equals death to the reef. The once vibrant coral with teeming life becomes a bleached barren wasteland.

bleached coral

Unless immediate action is taken, marine scientists have warned that climate change will cause “irreversible damage” to the Great Barrier Reef by 2030. If the ecosystems crash, there will be devastating consequences on ocean life. Humans will suffer too and lose one of the planet’s greatest treasures. What can we do to help save and bring back the Great Barrier Reef? Spread the word. Elect and pressure governments that say they will take climate change action. Support scientists and organizations that are fighting to save our planet. Attend climate change rallies. Make personal choices to lower our climate change footprint like driving fuel-efficient vehicles and eating no or less meat (cow production is the #1 culprit creating climate change!). Together, let’s protect our Great Barrier Reef – now.



Elephant Tusks or Trinkets?

elephant tusk blog

I was outraged to learn that Yahoo is profiting off of the sale of ivory by allowing ivory to be sold on its online network. Yahoo Japan is making huge profits by selling illegal ivory online. The global company Yahoo is separate from Yahoo Japan, however being its second largest shareholder, it has a huge say on Yahoo Japan’s policy. The illegal sale of ivory is a huge and bloody business. A pair of tusks from a single male elephant can weigh over 250 pounds. Each pound can be sold for up to $1500 on the black market. China and the United States are the world’s largest markets for ivory products. Ivory is considered a luxury cultural item in China. The main ivory products produced to meet demand are… trinkets. Here are just a few elephant facts to see if we can perhaps justify the massive demand for ivory trinkets:


  • Elephants are glorious, grand, and majestic. OK – that is my opinion, not necessarily a fact!
  • They are the largest animals to walk the surface of our planet. The largest elephant on record weighed
    24 000 lbs!
  • Elephants are highly intelligent, self-aware, and sentient beings. They have incredible memories. They are family-oriented and show compassion by “hugging” and caressing each other.
  • They love to play. And to communicate, elephants purr like cats!
  • Elephants use their tusks to defend themselves, dig for water, and lift objects.
  • Elephants cry and grieve. When passing a place where a loved one has died, an elephant will stop and remain silently still up to several minutes. The elephant will gently touch the bones of the deceased with its trunk and feet…

So… Have we justified slaughtering these magnificent and sensitive animals only to savagely extract their tusks and carve them into trinkets? The answer is a clear and indisputable NO.

1_citizenivory_nationalgeographic_1494092_ivory.adapt.1190.1Elephants are endangered. About 100 elephants are being slaughtered every day. THEY ARE STILL ALIVE while the tusks are being savagely hacked out from their heads. Unimaginable… They suffer excruciating pain and family members are exposed to and are aware of all the terror. Killing the alphas, which have the largest tusks, disrupts the herd’s entire social structure and creates many traumatized orphans. Habitat destruction and climate change are also contributing to the plight of elephants. Experts predict that elephants could be extinct from the wild in 10 or 20 years. We just CANNOT allow that to happen.

After public pressure, Google and Amazon have refused to sell ivory on their networks. So let’s put the pressure on Yahoo to do the same. Click here to sign a quick petition to tell Yahoo that we will not stand idly by while they contribute to the bloody ivory trade. Together, let’s protect our elephants – now.

Thank you for reading and for signing.

Update from “Our campaign is working!! Massive media on our petition forced Yahoo to publicly ask Yahoo Japan to review its ivory policy. But that’s not enough — only a total Yahoo sales ban will protect elephants. Let’s keep the pressure on — sign and share with everyone.”

(Sources:;;; )