Steve De Neef

Steve De Neef

As a testament to his great work with the Pew Charitable Trust, CMG selected underwater Director of Photography Steve De Neef for the 2018 Blue Initiative grant. With guidance from Luke Warwick at the Wilderness Conservation Society (WCS), De Neef is creating a five-minute advocacy film to be screened at several international fishery management workshops convened and supported by WCS, HSI, IFAW, Pew, Vulcan, and others.  

The primary goal is to inform and encourage delegates to CITES 2019 to protect the Mako shark, by voting to list them as a CITES Appendix II species. Steve De Neef will also produce several social media video shorts and photo assets to supplement WCS and other nonprofits’ campaigns.  A listing with CITES mimics the same time-tested proven tactic that CMG supported in two previous campaigns: the successful listing of mobulids in its previous grant to Danny Copeland and the Manta Ray Trust, as well as an upcoming attempt to list the Whale Shark by WCS and the 2018 Blue Initiative grantee Pew Charitable Trust.  

The De Neef Mako film, shot on location on the Baja Peninsula, has a secondary goal as well, to inform viewers in Baja about the financial benefits that local communities in that region may enjoy in transitioning from fishing-based economies that include capture of Makos, to eco-tourism-focused economies.  The film will also show the harmful health effects of consuming Mako meat. 

What are Mako sharks?  Mako sharks, the fastest sharks in the world, do not treat humans as prey. But humans do hunt Makos, and their population has declined 60 to 90% worldwide.  As many as a million sharks are caught each year. In the Baja Peninsula of northwestern Mexico, the local consumption of shark meat is common. The animal’s jaws and heads are also frequently found in tourist shop stalls.  Fins are exported for the lucrative international market. 

Steve De Neef and WCS see hope for the shark’s future, as they become less valued -and even dangerous- for human consumption. Scientists have recently discovered high concentrations of mercury in these top predators. Shark meat is often not labeled or is mislabeled, contributing to a perfect storm of public health issues. Fishing communities could switch to the fast-growing eco-tourism industry.  

The 2019 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), will be held in August of 2019.  The Appendix II designation will subject Mako sharks and look-alike species to international trade controls and rules followed by 182 countries and EU member states. Through the Wildlife Conservation Society and other media partners’ workshops and events ahead of and at the convention, the film and its message will reach hundreds of government decision makers and country delegations. Pew, IFAW, WCS, HSI and others will showcase the film on their social media and also utilize De Neef’s social assets to garner public support. 


About Steve De Neef

Photojournalist, aerial photographer, filmmaker and expert underwater cinematographer Steve De Neef has worked with numerous magazines, newspapers, NGO’s and production companies like National Geographic, BBC, Compass Light, Hakai Magazine, Discovery Channel, New York Times, TIME, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic Traveler, BBC Wildlife, Asian Geographic, Ocean Geographic, Oceana, Asian Diver, Nature’s Best Photography, Scuba Diver Australasia, Sportdiver, Habitat for Humanity, Concern Worldwide, Red Cross, 60 minutes Australia, and many more. Steve’s images and films have been shown and won awards in numerous competitions and film festivals like Nature’s Best Photography, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, Beneath the Sea, Beneath the Waves film festival, Wildlife Conservation and Film Festival, San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, Ocean Art, ADEX (Asian Dive Expo) photographer of the year, Oasis and more. A member of the prestigious Ocean Artists Society, De Neef lives in coastal Maine with his wife and children. 

About the Wildlife Conservation Society

For more than a century, the Wildlife Conservation Society has worked to protect and save wildlife and wild places around the world, in nearly 60 countries and across the ocean. They contribute to conservation efforts to prevent the extinction of hundreds of species through a variety of strategies to reduce threats to their numbers. By putting a stop to population declines, the WCS helps restore and strengthen the animals’ ecological function. They accomplish their goals through conservation science, developing international policy and building conservation capacity, supporting government-wide efforts and inspiring public support. Operating in sixteen global regions, the WCS also manages the Bronx, Central Park, Queens and Prospect Park Zoos and the New York Aquarium. 


Our Blue Initiative Program provides a $30,000 grant to an international organization each year, including production funding, in kind support, and guidance, to create a series of short films aimed at engaging local audiences in direct measurable action. In addition, a short film is created to engage world travelers in protecting the places they love to explore. Funding of this program is in partnership with and made possible by a 5-year grant from the Grand Circle Foundation, whose mission is to “give back to the world we travel.”

Learn more about the Blue Initiative Grant here - and learn more about our new grantees here.