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Body found off Florida coast thought to be missing Canadian filmmaker

By Jon Herskovitz

By Jon Herskovitz

(Reuters) - A Florida dive team found a submerged body thought to be Rob Stewart, a Canadian filmmaker and environmental activist who went missing after a deepwater dive off the southern Florida coast, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman.

A Key Largo volunteer fire and rescue dive team found the body at a depth of 220 feet (67 meters) near where Stewart went missing off the Florida Keys.

Final identification by the local medical examiner was pending, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric Woodall, a spokesman.

Stewart, 37, went missing on Tuesday after a deepwater dive to retrieve an anchor. His dive partner collapsed after returning to the boat, while Stewart, who signaled he was OK when he surfaced, later disappeared, Stewart's parents said.

The announcement of the body being found came about an hour after the Coast Guard said it was suspending its search for Stewart.

The U.S. Navy, Customs and Border Protection, Florida wildlife officials, a county sheriff's office and civilian volunteers had joined the Coast Guard in the search, which covered an area about the size of Connecticut. Ships, helicopters, airplanes, dive teams and sonar equipment were deployed in the effort, the Coast Guard said.

Stewart's 2006 documentary "Sharkwater" was aimed at exposing the shark hunting industry that was feeding demand for fins, a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. The hunting has ravaged shark populations and the film was part of a campaign that helped persuade some governments to crack down on "finning."

With finning, typically the fins are cut off and the live shark is tossed back into the sea. Unable to swim properly, the shark suffocates or is killed by predators.

Stewart said his new film was looking at the other ways in which as many as 80 million sharks were being harvested each year for items ranging from cosmetics to pet food.

"Sharks are sophisticated, intelligent and often shy creatures that aren’t interested in eating humans," he said in a video seeking funding for the new movie.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz, editing by G Crosse)