When Peter Benchley penned the now famous book Jaws – that was subsequently turned into a blockbuster movie of the same name – I’m sure he had no idea that the result would be to increase the already despised reputation of the shark. The shark is to the oceans as the lion is to the savannah – The King! But many people believe the shark to be a silent stalker – a stealthy, vicious killer and a man eating demon. Hatred comes from ignorance.
“Sea Creatures Are Exotic, Complex and More Intriguing Than Anything Ever Imagined By The Mind of Men.” – Peter Benchley
Great White Shark
Benchley wrote the book Jaws which was published in 1974. In the summer of 1975 the movie of the same name was released and the public went to see it in droves. Almost immediately an irrational fear of the ocean developed and people saw sharks everywhere. What came to be known as “The Jaws Effect” – vilified sharks – drove people to jump into boats and seek out sharks to kill. Shark tournaments and shark wrangling events sprang up and untold numbers of these magnificent creatures were slaughtered.
In later years Benchley was quoted as saying that had he known the outcome of his novel he would not have written it. He spent many years advocating for the ocean, for shark conservation and the protection of marine ecosystems. Peter Benchley died in 2006.
One positive outcome from the book and the movie was that it lead to a fascination with sharks and more research awareness on the part that they play in the balance of the world’s oceans.
Opinions seem to differ as to the exact number of shark species but it is believed that there are between 350 – 450 different sharks worldwide. Most sharks live in salt water but some, like the River Shark and the Bull Shark can move between salt water and freshwater. Sharks can be curious and playful in their own environments. Contrary to popular propaganda – attacks on humans globally are not frequent.
In 2006 – The International Shark Attack File (ISAF) studied 96 alleged attacks. They concluded that 62 were unprovoked and 16 were provoked. Their research showed that between 2001 – 2006 – 4.3 unprovoked attacks per year resulted in a human fatality.
People need to be aware of the reasons for shark attacks and to make wise decisions when in areas where sharks are known to live. Ignoring warning signs is not a smart thing to do. They were put there for reason!
Little progress has been made around the world in the conservation of sharks. China and Japan are not interested in protecting them. It is estimated that more than 100,000 million sharks are killed every year. Sharks generally do not re-produce at an early age. Some species only reach sexual maturity at 13 – 15 years of age. They ccannot survive this ongoing decimation of their numbers.
In some Asian countries there is a belief that shark fins can make a person immune to cancer – so the demand for shark fins for this purpose and for shark fin soup – which is a status symbol – make their hunting and slaughter unrelenting.
The untimely death of Steve Irwin – The Crocodile Hunter – of Australia in 2006 resulted in another example of irrational human behaviour. He was killed by a stingray in a highly unusual accident and people took to the water and viciously killed stingrays for no reason – other than their ignorance and mis-directed hatred.
There Is Much Work To Be Done Worldwide To Protect Sea Life!