Listen: Filmmaker Andre Borell talks with Laura Bennett about his new documentary 'Envoy: Shark Cull'
Slowly but surely sharks are getting a re-brand. Not just for their own reputation, but because there’s significant environmental consequences if we keep treating them as viscous predators that need to be eradicated.
Filmmaker Andre Borell has long loved the ocean, but only in the last few years has he really come to understand the importance of its underwater ecosystems and the role of sharks in them.
The ocean “really is an other-worldy place,” Andre told Hope 103.2.
“It’s quite incredible when you actually get down there. You also really notice that things you’ve been told [about] sharks are not really true at all.
“[Seeing] the way they behave and the calmness of them, and the calculated-ness of them and the shyness of them most of the time, that really changed things for me.”
Narrated by Australian actor Eric Bana, Andre’s new film Envoy: Shark Cull invites viewers to experience that same realisation, and promotes action against the mistreatment of sharks and underwater wildlife.
Focusing specifically on two “shark-culling” programs running off the NSW and QLD coastlines, the movie combines nature documentary storytelling with investigative interviews as it educates viewers about the impact of these “outdated” initiatives.
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The NSW Bather Protection Program and Queensland Shark Control Program respectively, have been in place for over 70 years – close to 100 in NSW – and were initially sold as ways to protect beachgoers from the threat of sharks.
Each operates slightly differently, but rely on netting that neither stretches the full length of the beach, nor covers the full depth of the ocean. Essentially, leaving entire swathes of the coastline exposed to what it’s intended to block out, and sadly, trapping and killing numerous marine creatures in the process.
Andre agrees that protecting swimmers is necessary, but believes more of the environmentally friendly, cost-effective modern technologies need to be embraced.
“The whole ocean keeps us alive,” Andre said.
“If you start pulling out Jenga blocks of that ecosystem it’s quite a bad idea.”
One the key roles sharks play in that ecosystem is to regulate “middle fish” populations so they don’t overeat food supplies – particularly in coral reefs – and to keep dugongs “on their toes” so, similarly, they don’t overeat things like sea grass and kelp that influence carbon dioxide absorption and oxygen production.
“Sharks keep the whole ecosystem in check,” Andre said.
“That’s sometimes hard to understand – especially for fishermen who see sharks as the enemy taking their catch, but the reality is, no sharks in the big picture long term means no fish.”
Considering the lethargy people can feel toward protecting marine environments, Andre said, “I always think of the surface of the ocean as like this great divide”.
“You could feel so disconnected from anything that’s under it and think that what happens down there is not my problem, and what we kill down there doesn’t really matter – because you can’t see it. It’s not as visual as cutting down koala habitats.”
“I firmly believe that when people are more educated on this topic they will feel the same frustration and anger that I feel about these programs.”
Envoy: Shark Cull is in cinemas July 21-25. Visit the official website for updates on a digital release if needed.