a documentary film by Wilson McCourtney

Embark on a journey with Florida native and documentarian Wilson McCourtney on a mission to protect wildlife in the Sunshine State. “Fighting for Florida” is an eye-opening, environmental film that celebrates the natural beauty of Florida while promoting shark conservation and exposing the abuse of Florida’s natural habitats and precious resources.

Growing up in a coastal gem like Sarasota, FL allowed McCourtney to witness the ebb and flow of the tides on a molecular level. Issues that have plagued the gulf coast are completely unknown to people living in other seaside regions of the United States, proving to be hyper local issues that only affect the residents. Now that Florida has become the top growth state in America with approximately 1,000 people moving here per day, the numbers are unsustainable and with the population continuing to boom, so do the environmental issues.  There is a great opportunity to create change and make Florida a shining model of conservation for the rest of the world.  With such lush wetlands teaming with birds & reptiles, immense biodiversity, and an abundance of marine life, Florida attracts adventure seekers and animal enthusiasts from all corners of the globe.  However on the flip side of that coin, it is also plagued by corporate exploitation, wide spread pollution, algae blooms, irresponsible fishermen, trophy hunters, shark finning, and wildlife abuse.

Following the devastating 2018 outbreak of Red Tide (toxic algae bloom), Fighting for Florida introduces us to a wide array of environmentalists and ocean warriors who are fighting to bring awareness to the water crisis and loss of marine life while highlighting the beauty from coast to coast. This film carries us through a celebration of nature as well as exposes the underbelly of shark fishing, the international fin trade, herbicides, rapid construction, water quality and much more.

Florida’s great city of Miami has now replaced Houston as the new American hub for the international shark fin trade as millions of fins from Central and South America move through the port every year en route to Asia.  As divers and ocean explorers, we all agree the fin trade is a global crisis that must be stopped in order to maintain the health and balance of our oceans. In Florida alone, there are 1.2 million sharks killed every year by the recreational and commercial fishing industry which target them for trophies, thrills, meat, fins, and livers. The act of shark finning is illegal in the US but the trade is not.  The trade is only illegal in 14 states and we are fighting to make Florida the 15th.  Lead by the courageous team from Shark Allies, watch the efforts put forth by local ocean and shark enthusiasts as they tirelessly fight to pass Senate Bill 680, also known as the Kristin Jacobs Ocean Conservation Act to stop this pillaging of our ocean’s top apex predators. We lose an estimated 75-100 million sharks a year, that’s 11,000 sharks per hour and 3 per second. These numbers are devastating and pushing many shark species to extinction.  Each state that has successfully passed these fin bans have not only outlawed these barbaric practices but also removed the ability to trade fins being smuggled internationally.  Luckily these efforts have pushed the needle forward in raising awareness and shifted the mindset to protection over extermination and now it’s Florida’s turn to step up and become a powerful voice for shark conservation. 

The economic impact of shark diving in Florida and eco tourism is exponentially more financially beneficial to the Florida economy than the fin trade. Florida alone brings in $221 million a year for their shark diving industry, in comparison to the $1 million a year in shark fin sales throughout the ENTIRE United States. This also translates to nearly 4,000 full-time Florida jobs in the eco tourism industry driven by shark encounters. Quite simply, Sharks are worth more alive than dead and Wilson McCourtney’s film sets out to prove that.

One shark encounter can truly change the way these creatures are viewed and spring board a path from voyeurism to conservation. For McCourtney, upon experiencing the spellbinding presence of sharks in their environment, he was immediately fascinated by these misunderstood creatures and knew that they not only deserved our respect but our efforts to protect them. The experience educated him on the incredible injustice that sharks have suffered for centuries and this film follows his journey to raise awareness and pass the fin ban, all of which are stepping stones  towards his ultimate dream of turning Florida into a shark sanctuary similar to what the Bahamas have done.

Throughout the filmmaker’s quest to highlight and expose Florida’s natural beauty, the sunshine state was hit with a devastating outbreak of Red Tide on the gulf coast. This toxic algae bloom ravaged the fish populations and killed large mammals that have previously been unaffected by this naturally occurring phenomenon, turning the beaches into graveyards and the ocean into a polluted wasteland. The growing nutrient pollution (nitrogen and phosphorous) of Florida’s waterways from agricultural runoff, excessive use of fertilizer, waste water treatment facilities, and a failed aquatic plant management program fuel these issues that cost the tourism industry hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.  For McCourtney, the most devastating aspect was witnessing the staggering loss of wildlife which included 2,000 tons of dead fish, hundreds of dolphins, 400 endangered sea turtles, 150 manatees, countless birds, and even a 27 foot whale shark. With a heavy heart, he reacted quickly and joined water quality experts to document the outbreak and dig deeper into the source of the nutrient pollution problems which act as steroids for Red Tide, leading him to the smoking gun – a state sanctioned chemical armada of air boats hell bent on spraying every lake, pond, and storm water ditch to death with poisonous herbicides in the name of controlling invasive plants.

As a mecca for many people, Florida is losing more and more of it’s green spaces to concrete jungles popping up in every pocket of the state and the water quality continues to worsen. All of these dismal issues facing Florida can be remedied with efforts that Fighting for Florida will discuss from small changes to senate bills that anyone can support with minimal effort. We are currently on the precipice of sustainability and have a great opportunity to move towards progressive change on many fronts that will protect the peninsula of Florida. McCourtney illuminates the need for conservation and illustrates small changes that every Floridian family can make in order to keep Florida beautiful with thriving ecosystems that act as safe havens for the breathtaking wildlife.


Tentative release date for Film Festivals is Summer of 2024. Official Movie Trailer Coming Soon!!!

Follow along @fightingforfloridafilm @dreamreefcinema @wildlifewilson

#FightingForFlorida #SaveFloridaSharks #ExploreFilmProtect #NoFinFL #StopSpraying

Please CONSIDER DONATING to this project and receive your name in the credits! Money will be used for post production costs and more conservation efforts.  Help us keep Florida beautiful and wild! 

Check out our Behind the Scenes Gallery

Underwater Shark Photography by Cassandra Scott and Red Tide Photography by Dylan Jon Wade Cox.