Kyle's Career Filmstrip: TV Series and Movies

Mar 12, 2013

Sawyer Chandler and actor dad Kyle advocate for sharks


Sawyer Chandler digs sharks. “A lot,” she says.

It’s not that the 11-year-old student, activist and daughter of “Friday Night Lights’” star Kyle Chandler dislikes kittens and puppies. In fact, her family’s Labrador retriever-dachshund mix, Mystery, was on the speakerphone with us during a recent interview from their Austin-area home. But “some kids like other creatures that most kids don’t,” she says, matter-of-factly.

Sawyer and her father, who recently appeared in “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” will meet with Texas lawmakers during Thursday’s Humane Lobby Day to urge better animal welfare laws to protect the fish. They are supporting HB 852/SB 572, a bill that would prohibit the sale, trade, purchase and transportation of shark fins in Texas. The well-spoken Sawyer plans to tell lawmakers what she thinks about shark finning, the practice of capturing sharks and cutting off their fins for use in shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy that she says can sell for up to $120 a bowl.

“I also want to tell them what happens to the sharks after the finning. They don’t just die instantly. There’s a lot more that goes on as they sink to the bottom just waiting to be eaten or drown or bleed to death,” Sawyer adds.

Shark finning has been illegal since passage of the U.S. Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000, and five other states already have trade bans.

Texas Parks and Wildlife announced on March 1 the completion of a four-day effort called “Operation Shark Fin.” It aimed to disrupt transnational criminal organizations engaged in illegal commercial fishing and other activities in the Gulf of Mexico, the Rio Grande and Falcon Lake and resulted in the seizure of 17,500 feet of long lines, two vessels and 15 citations or arrests.

Always interested in the creatures because she thought they were “cool,” Sawyer “really got into them” when her mom and dad showed her a movie called “Sharkwater,” which alerted her to the issue of finning (her dad’s own interest in sharks was sparked as a child when he saw “Jaws” on the big screen).

“Sharkwater’s” director, Rob Stewart, caught Kyle Chandler on Ellen Degeneres’ TV show talking about his daughter’s interest and contacted the family, arranging to simulcast a speech he was giving at a Canadian high school to Sawyer’s grade school class via Skype. He chatted with Sawyer afterward and gave her classmates an opportunity to ask questions.

The fifth-grader wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up, a goal she’s had since the third grade (before that, she wanted to be a doctor or a surgeon). A friend in Dallas told Sawyer about the scientists, and “I thought it was pretty cool that there’s a name for what I want to do,” she says.

Although Sawyer’s family supports her activism, “This is my daughter’s deal,” Kyle Chandler says. She built her own website,, to alert people to the issue. It contains graphic photos of finned sharks, a list of Texas restaurants that serve shark fin soup and a petition to ban the sale of the product in the state.

“I have loved sharks my whole life, and the last thing I want on earth is to have them go extinct,” she writes on the site. “I hope this website may help you to ban fishing sharks and save them from leaving the face of the earth.”

When asked if she has other other issues for which she plans to fight, Sawyer says, “I’m mainly focusing on sharks right now, but when I get older I want to help pretty much all marine life.”
Texas Humane Lobby Day takes place Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Capitol.


  1. Awesome! That's FINtastic Sawyer!

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