The percentage of people who want to go swimming in shark-infested waters is probably below 0.65, but we know one girl who simply thrives when she’s around the sharp-toothed creatures. Her name is Madison Stewart, 21, more widely known as Shark Girl.
Stewart’s love affair with sharks started as a preteen. Thanks to her adventurous Australian parents, she’s lived on a yacht since the age of two(!) and has been diving down to the ocean to visit her shark friends for over nine years. Sounds insane, right? Yeah, you know she’s heard that before.
“The first impression people have is, ‘You’re crazy!'” she said to the Huffington Post. “People just don’t understand sharks. I’ve never had a fear of them.”
And we know she’s not lying because how else would she have been able to take such a goofy selfie with a shark lurking in her periphery?!
If she’s so calm taking selfies with sharks, it’s no wonder she also loves the movie Jaws. But, don’t get her wrong, she has a bone to pick with her fellow Jaws-watchers.
“I loved Jaws. I have this special edition box set and I’ve seen it heaps of times,” she said. “[But] that whole Jaws generation grew up terrified of them. You go knee deep in the water and they hear the Jaws theme music.”
Stewart thinks many of our shark fears stem from pop culture a.k.a. that cult classic and it’s unfortunately contributing to the decimation of the shark population. Over 90 per cent of them have disappeared from the world’s oceans.
I will not allow the fete of the species I love to be determined by people who have never even seen them, I will not loose the world my father raised me to value to a cause as meaningless as greed, I will not partake in an occupation other than rebellion in a world that functions on unjust laws, If the law is taking what you love most, try change it, if you then do not succeed, I support you breaking it. Xx Madi (my name is not shark girl) 🙂 #sharkgirl #flakefiles #earthfirst
Stewart, who’s also an underwater cinematographer, has been documenting the plight of all sharks for years. Currently, she’s trying to shed some light on the shark meat market with the hashtag “#fakefiles.”
“In my lifetime I will make the trade of shark meat unacceptable and un- Australian,” she said in a Facebook post.
Risking arrest (she’s already been charged and had them dropped), Madison and her team have gone undercover to get to the bottom of the somewhat sketchy shark meat industry. Some of her findings, which she shares on Instagram, are too graphic to even republish.
The question is not can we fish sharks sustainably: the question is why do we feel the need to do so in a developed nation whos overpopulated coastline cannot be sustained by such demand on local fisheries targeting slow growing species with no clue as to what the implications or effects are. Shark fisheries face bycatch levels, unknown data about the wide range of species captured and lack of care from the public, because despite having similar life traits and some sharks having one pup every other year, they aren’t dolphins- so not many people stop to give a dam, because we would never walk past dolphin steaks for sale and stay quiet would we? Yet shark meat is an essential part of the aussie diet. My country takes comfort in the food they eat… Im going to take that comfort away. Laws broken, protected species for sale, illegal levels of arsenic and mercury, false labelling. All will be revealed soon on national news #flakefiles @aquagatspearguns @nicolemclachlan @nibarguen @finfreemelbourne
A photo posted by Madison Stewart (@sharkgirlmadison) on
If we don’t do something now, the world could be void of sharks for good, Madison says. So, what would the planet look like without the ocean’s apex predators? That’s exactly what she’ll be covering while on Discovery Canada’s Daily Planet on Monday, July 6 at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT during Shark Week. Be sure to tune in then.