Update: Rob Stewart vanished while boat crew rushed to aid dive partner
The Toronto activist and filmmaker was in Florida to film a follow-up to his hit documentary, Sharkwater.
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The search for missing Canadian conservationist Rob Stewart continues as more details emerge about the moments before he disappeared.
Stewart, who directed the 2007 documentary Sharkwater, went missing while on a diving expedition in the Florida Keys on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Witnesses said the 37-year-old was last seen surfacing from a deep dive with a partner shortly after 5 p.m. However, his dive partner fell unconscious while climbing aboard the crew’s boat and Stewart vanished in the scramble to assist the stricken diver.
The filmmaker’s family fears he may have lost consciousness as well, but his condition wasn’t noticed during the commotion.
A near continuous air and water search by the Coast Guard and volunteers has been ongoing ever since.
Stewart was in Florida filming a follow-up to Sharkwater, which explored the toll that shark-hunting has taken on the world’s oceans. The documentary has been widely credited with kickstarting a wave of global activism to provide new protections to sharks, a critical cog in marine ecosystems around the planet.
His activism was key to a 2011 ban on the sale and consumption of shark fins in Toronto.
“This is amazing,” Stewart said at the time. “My heart has all the warm butterflies inside. I couldn’t feel better.”
After beginning his career as a wildlife photographer, Stewart emerged as a staunch conservationist who aggressively spoke out on issues like climate change and ocean-acidification.
“We are in a really delicate situation right now where our survival is in jeopardy,” Stewart told Metro in 2013. “We’ve got to do something fast.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been started to help with the search effort. A spokesperson for the company says $21,100 was raised over the course of 21 hours.
Friends say he is an experienced diver who has been training others for almost 20 years.