This World Oceans Day, a Sunshine Coast resident is taking on marine conservation in a new role.
Lana Brandt, who moved to Gibsons during the pandemic, has recently been announced as the first executive director of the Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation (RSSF), a non-profit organization committed to public advocacy and education to protect sharks and ocean health.
The organization is named in honour of Rob Stewart, the late Canadian documentary filmmaker, biologist, activist and conservationist best known for his three films about sharks and ocean acidification. With the release of Sharkwater in 2006, it was Stewart who turned a spotlight on the devastations of shark fin soup, and instigated new laws to protect the marine creatures. Several countries have since banned shark finning and the importation of shark fins. His work also inspired the formation of other conservation organizations.
Stewart’s third film Sharkwater: Extinction was released after his death in 2017. The Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation was created in 2019.
“Creating the Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation was the commitment of our family and Rob’s many friends and supporters to honour his legacy. Rob would be so proud of this milestone and the projects the Foundation has underway to protect sharks and our oceans,” said Brian Stewart in a press release.
Brandt also credits Stewart for influencing her career in conservation. The two met shortly after his first award-winning documentary Sharkwater was released. When she watched the film, she said she instantly wanted to become part of his effort to protect sharks.
“I was quite impressed early on in my career to meet such an incredible voice for oceans,” Brandt said. “He was so down to Earth, an incredible human.
“I'm really excited to take some of that knowledge and experience and apply it to the campaigns that the roster at Sharkwater Foundation already has under way,” she said.
That work includes raising awareness about the presence of sharks, unmarked, in everyday products such as makeup, pet food and seafood.
“I think until we have transparency, consumers really need to be aware and mindful of the products that they choose each day, knowing that these products have an impact on our oceans and the health of this beautiful species, many [of which] are endangered,” she said.
She told Coast Reporter it is a tremendous honour to be chosen to take on the role with the foundation. With experience in the non-profit sector, fundraising and marketing, Brandt said she likes to think it was her passion for the cause that makes her the right fit for the job. Her 15-plus years in conservation mostly includes sustainable seafoods and organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation.
“Once you have that awareness, it's hard not to take action. And I think people in general want to do what's good for the world. So I'm really just excited to be able to take my enthusiasm for doing good in this world and protecting our oceans and helping people see how they can make a positive impact,” she said.
Once her four-year-old twins (their birthday also happens to be on World Oceans Day) start school, Brandt looks forward to continuing to work with schools.
“Hopefully I will be able to help inspire youth because that's really one area that is very important to my heart to help spark those young activists.”