The Sharkman meets Peter Benchley
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 Sharks 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.