The Sharkman meets Peter Benchley

Hello Peter, welcome to Sharkman’s World

Sharkman: Were you interested in sharks, before you wrote “Jaws”?

Peter: Yes. I was interested in sharks as a child.

Sharkman: What prompted you to write “Jaws”?

Peter: I had been thinking of the story for some time. I had seen “Blue Water, White Death” and had read of the capture of a 4550lb Great White shark off the beaches of Long Island. I thought, “What would happen if one of those things came in to a community and wouldn’t go away?”

Sharkman: How long did it take you to finish the book?

Peter: Approximately a year and half, with edits and rewrites, etc.

Sharkman: Why did the book and the film impress people so much?

Peter: There is no single, simple answer. I like to refer to lines written by a Harvard sociobiologist, E.O. Wilson, as cited in Richard Ellis’s masterful “Monsters Of The Sea”:

We don’t just fear our predators, we are transfixed by them, prone to weave stories and fables and chatter endlessly about them, because fascination breeds preparedness and preparedness, survival. In a deeply tribal sense, we love our monsters.

Sharkman: What kind of feedback did you get from the public?

Peter: Letters, phone calls, stories in the press and on TV .- every kind of feedback, you can imagine.

Sharkman: I believe that over the years, “Jaws” also gave a new positive outlook towards shark conservation. Do you agree?

Peter: “Jaws” didn’t give me a new outlook. It gave me the opportunity to spend much of my life on and under the sea, and that experience created a sense of the need for conservation – not just of sharks, but of the ocean itself.

Sharkman: In your book “White Shark”, you pictured the shark as a more positive creature. Do you think that this helped change the shark’s Image?

Peter: “White Shark?” No, I don’t think it changed much. Not many people read it. Besides, the image of sharks has never been a major problem. The far-sea fishing fleets that are devastating shark populations around the world, are not reacting to an image of sharks. They are responding to market demand for shark products, specifically shark fins.

Sharkman: You are now doing a lot of promoting for shark protection and conservation. Are you finding a lot of opposition?

Peter: Most of the opposition I encounter comes from people who feel that their interests are threatened by limiting the taking of anything … from sea or land. These are powerful people, as witness the loathsome fact that the Japanese have resumed the slaughter of sperm whales.

Sharkman: I have just read your latest book ‘Shark Trouble’. It takes a different look at sharks. May I ask you how you feel the general response to the book has been?

Peter: My feeling about the reaction to “Shark Trouble,” such reaction as there was, was terrific. The publisher didn’t advertise or promote it, and I was disappointed in its sales – domestically, anyway.

Sharkman: Anything else you would like to add ?

Peter: Thank you. Sharks are critically important members of the marine food chain. If we destroy them for short-term gain, we risk the biggest long-term loss imaginable: complete destruction of the ecosystem and, ultimately, of ourselves.

Sharkman: I totally agree. Thank you Peter Benchley.

Peter Benchley

May 1940 – February 2006

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