Magazine Post: Stefanie Brendl

Stefanie Brendl

A Life Dedicated to Sharks

Growing up in Bavaria, Germany, Stefanie Brendl had no idea she’d spend most of her life around oceans and sharks. Of course, cavorting with sharks is a lot like hanging out with politicians, something Brendl has done extensively in her effort to protect her beloved toothy fish.

After getting certified as a scuba diver, she moved to Hawaii and founded Shark Encounters, a venture that put tourists in the water with wild sharks — behind the safety of a steel cage. Hawaii also turned out to be her introduction into politics. In 2010, Brendl successfully led the charge to ban the trade of shark fins in Hawaii. She also became a cinematographer and filmmaker and produced a documentary called Extinction Soup, which examined the perils of shark finning and her victorious efforts in Hawaii.

Stephanie Brendl swims with a tiger shark. Photo courtesy Stefanie Brendl

During the past two years, Brendl has spent so much time in Florida that she’s practically become a resident. Her goal was to pass a bill similar to the one in Hawaii. She teamed up with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, and they pushed through a bill that the governor signed into law in September. It was a major victory for sharks and Florida.

As the founder and executive director of Shark Allies, Brendl has been fighting to protect sharks from overfishing, finning and general abuse during the past two decades. We all know how much Guy Harvey loves sharks, but Brendl’s devotion to the sometimes feared creature may equal Harvey’s. Together they’re a formidable force in shark advocacy.

With Florida now in her rearview mirror, Brendl is putting her efforts into passing a national shark fin ban. She also plans to cross the big water and spread her shark love in Europe, where some antiquated laws need her wisdom and guidance.

It’s hard to imagine how a career and passion in life will develop. For shark populations around the planet, they’re lucky Brendl chose them.

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