Toronto filmmaker and shark conservationist Rob Stewart has gone missing following a night dive off the coast of Florida on Tuesday, Jan. 31.
Stewart, 37, was diving with three companions near Islamorada in the Florida Keys, part of the chain of islands between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, 20 kilometres off the state’s southern tip.
“They were diving on a wreck off of Islamorada,” Senior Chief of the U.S. Coast Guard Jeremy Weaver told the CBC.
According to Weaver, Stewart “resurfaced at the end of the dive and as the boat was turning around to pick him up, he went back under – and was not seen again.”
It’s not immediately clear what caused Stewart to go back underwater, but the three other divers are safe.
Weaver said weather conditions were good at the time of the dive early last night and the U.S. Coast Guard was on the scene Wednesday morning searching for the “Sharkwater” director.
In a statement, the Coast Guard confirmed “assisting with the search are members from the Navy, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.”
Stewart’s sister, Alexandra, posted to Facebook on Tuesday night, calling for help in locating her brother.
“HELP NEAR ISLAMORADA. FLORIDA – PLEASE HELP WITH A SEARCH AND RESCUE FOR ROB STEWART WHO IS LOST DIVING,” she wrote.
And early Wednesday, Alexandra posted another message to Facebook: “We need and will pay for a small, low flying/slow airplane (preferable) or a helicopter to search this afternoon from about 2pm-4:45pm or as late as 6:15pm,” she wrote.
Tyler MacLeod, Rob’s best friend, business partner and PR co-ordinator for Team Sharkwater has also posted a series of messages on Facebook in an effort to find his friend.
Stewart is best known for his 2006 documentary “Sharkwater,” which put a spotlight on global shark-hunting and its impact on our oceans. Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, the documentary went on to win 40 awards in festivals around the world. The shark enthusiast told Sangita Patel about his doc when he visited our studio last.
His follow-up film “Revolution” was the highest-grossing Canadian documentary in 2013 and won 19 awards from global film festivals. The director’s most recent Instagram post shows he was working on the sequel, “Sharkwater 2”.
Stewart was born and raised in Toronto before he studied biology at Western University in London, Ont..
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the search effort.