Jaws back in cinemas this week!
Why see it? “Because it’s the classic 1975 movie that changed films for ever and one of director Steven Spielberg’s finest moments. And it’s scary!” Vue cinema.
I certainly don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of watching this film now that it’s back in mainstream cinemas this week, however, I would like point out that it was because of this film ‘that changed films for ever’ as quoted in the write up from the Vue cinema, that it’s also the reason why today the Great White Shark is an endangered species. The film not only changed films forever, but also changed the plight for this animal forever too.
The film was made in the 1970’s before we had any real understanding of the true nature of sharks, and especially the nature of the Great White shark. This film did nothing to abate the fear that humans already had of sharks, it only spurred on the hatred and led to thousands of white sharks being the target of trophy killing, sparking the beginning of an epic disaster for sharks worldwide. Many scientists believe that there are only around 3000 Great White sharks left in the wild. Today, the Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) is listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN throughout its range, and was placed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) list in 2004. The central problem surrounding these animals is a lack of public understanding and awareness. The actual number of humans that die of a shark attack each year is less than ten.
Sharks have been regarded as ‘monsters of the deep’, and man-eating machines through the sensationalised press coverage of the occasional but rarely fatal, shark attack for years. I remember this film from my childhood, and the fear was set in me from a very early age. It was only when I started to research sharks myself that I realised how remarkable these animals are and without them, our oceans would be in a very sorry state indeed.
Sharks have been on Earth for over 400 million years and the oceans are their home. We humans are not their natural prey but there will be occasions when sharks attack us. This is nature and we should always respect an animal’s natural environment and resist going on the counter attack by killing them. Most of the problems stem from us and human activities such as overfishing. This not only removes vast numbers of their natural food source but also affects marine food systems, causing an imbalance that could result in many sharks searching for food out of their normal range. Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws went onto to become a shark conservationist and actively campaigned on behalf of sharks the years leading up before death in 2006. While the story was inspired by the real Jersey Shore attacks of 1916, Benchley wrote this book as fiction only and never realised how influential the story would become when it was made into a film by Spielberg in 1975. Today, there is still no real proof that the shark attacks of 1916 were that of a Great White.
It’s important for people to read the facts and less of the fiction about these animals. Sharks have survived 5 major extinctions, were on Earth before the dinosaurs and above all, they hold the underwater world in balance and without them we would see a very different marine environment; they therefore deserve some respect. Please watch this film with this in mind.
Marine Conservation Ecologist