Sharks and Jaws

sharkThis shark was found smiling on Martha’s Vineyard, where parts of the movie Jaws was filmed. Humans have a strange relationship with sharks. We idolize and look up to them even as we fear and continue to hunt them.

Sharks have more of a reason to fear us. Humans kill between 50 to 100 million sharks each year, but sharks only kill a handful of humans. After surviving for 450 million years, sharks may be gone within the next few decades.

Author Peter Benchley wished he never wrote Jaws, according to this Boston.com article.

Now his widow is the president of the board of Shark Savers.

The Shark Research Institute found that the populations of eight shark species declined more than 50 percent from 1986 to 2000. We don’t know how much Jaws might have contributed to that, but the movie didn’t help when it amplified a public perception of sharks as monsters.

Shark tournaments like the one held on Martha’s Vineyard until last year don’t help either. After the Humane Society targeted the tournament and officials grew tired of the rowdy crowds, it moved off island to Newport, which doesn’t make things any easier for area sharks.

But the worldwide decline of sharks is due to shark finning more than anything else. Each year, up to 73 million sharks are killed for their fins, according to Oceana. A shark caught for finning has its fins sliced off, often while the shark is still alive, then it’s tossed overboard to bleed and die.

Sharks do much more for us than we do for them. They keep fish populations healthy by selectively eating sick or slower fish. When sharks are removed from the sea, we lose commercially important fish and shellfish. Those fish help maintain the health of coral reefs and the ocean.

shark friendAccording to a Shark Savers study, when shark populations were destroyed off the mid-Atlantic, cownose rays, a former shark prey, grew out of control. The rays then depleted the scallops, ending a 100-year-old scallop fishery.

In the wake of the 40th anniversary of Jaws, maybe it’s time to put our fears aside and become a friend to sharks. Let’s do what we can to protect and respect sharks and the ocean. Before it’s too late.

What do you think of sharks or Jaws? If you wrote Jaws, would you wish you hadn’t?

If you’re wondering what you can do, please sign this petition asking GrubHub to remove shark fins from its menu.

Related Post:
Sharks Facing Extinction

Gift Card Winner: Instead of doing the old fashioned hat thing, I assigned a number to each comment from the last post, then generated a number from random.org to find the winner. And the winner of the $25 Amazon gift card is….#3 Jill Weatherholt. Congratulations! I’ll send you an email so we can figure out the details of your gift card delivery. Thank you to everyone for visiting and for your friendship. Happy reading to all!

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71 thoughts on “Sharks and Jaws

  1. Thank you for this post, Sheila. I had no idea sharks we treated in such an inhumane manner. That is horrible. I’ll definitely sign the petition.
    As far as the movie, I can’t deny that I watch it every time that it’s on television. I think its more for the nostalgic feeling I get. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the thought that I was only ten years old when the movie was released. Yikes!
    THANK YOU so much for the gift card! I never win things like this, so it was a wonderful surprise.
    I love the picture of you and the shark! 🙂

    • Hahah – thank you – I’m trying to make friends with him but I still look a little scared (probably more of the camera than the shark)! I love Jaws for those nostalgic reasons – there are so many great, entertaining lines in it too. The thought of it still scares me a bit when I go swimming, even while knowing that we’re more likely to be killed by lightning than a shark. Thank you for signing the petition! Congratulations and happy reading!

  2. Great link to that article on Peter Benchley. It’s good to know he’s become an advocate for sharks now. As you say, they are essential to the whole ecosystem. Sharks belong in the ocean, not as a tasteless ingredient in a bowl of soup.

    • Thank you! I loved your post on sharks too and happened to see it so I had to throw it in there. It’s so true that if the ocean dies, we die. It’s amazing how many problems the ocean is facing these days – and a dwindling shark population is one of them. I’ll keep hoping it can all be turned around as long as enough people care and make sure their voices are heard.

  3. What exactly is a shark tournament?

    That finning is horrible. How cruel we humans can be. Thanks for raising awareness of this. I knew some of it, but not to this extent.

    As for the Jaws book and whether it should’ve been written, I’m probably not in the right frame of mind since I’m currently shopping a book of my own with a controversial subject. 😉

    • It’s a weekend event where fishermen go out and hunt for sharks and the one with the biggest shark by the end wins. The sharks that are caught are usually displayed at the marina (sort of like how that one in Jaws was displayed). MV officials said the mix of blood and beer attracted crowds that were too rowdy, surprisingly enough. 🙂

  4. Sharks, like all animals, are so beautiful. I’m so amazed at how many kinds there are too. My favorite are the Great Whites but I also love the Cookiecutter sharks which I just found out about last year. You may already know about them, but they live deep in the ocean and are quite small. They’re called “cookie cutters” because they take a quick bite of a whale (or something much bigger than they are) and then quickly swim away, leaving only a perfect bite mark, haha!

    • Hahah – I hadn’t heard of the cookiecutter sharks – thanks for letting me know about them! It’s amazing that there are so many different kinds – about 400 species – and only a few can be harmful to us. I love thinking about that cookiecutter now – taking little chomps and then swimming away – pretty sneaky!

  5. I am in awe of sharks, such an amazing creature, I do fear them when I go swimming but its just my crazy imagination that gets me worked up. I hated Jaws because it was just so unbelievable. We do need to care and preserve our marine life and if you ask most surfers they are cool with sharing the water with sharks. Sheila I could not think of a more worthy prize winner than Jill. She is such an amazing supporter of many blogs I read.

    • I’m still a little scared of them too because of that movie! It’s so unbelievable that it’s funny, but I do still think of it sometimes when I go swimming. But then only three people in the world were killed by sharks last year so I’ll take my chances. Thanks Kath! I’m glad you were happy with those results. You’ll have to win one of these times too!

  6. So many interesting facts on sharks… Some of them, absolutely surprising to me!…
    Great phiotographs and such a good reading, dear Sheila. Thanks for sharing, all my best wishes. Aquileana 😀

    • Thanks so much – I always love your posts because of all the interesting information! It’s hard to get those Jaws images out of our minds, but humans are much scarier statistically. Thank you for sharing on Twitter too!

  7. I signed the petition, Sheila. Sharks are amazing creatures and have been given a huge bum wrap over the years. I’m sure Jaws didn’t help their cause. My maxim is – if we swim in their soup we can’t be surprised when they take a bite out of us. 😉

    • Hahah – that’s a great way to put it (and so true – we are swimming in their soup)! Thank you so much for signing the petition! People like you give me hope.

  8. Just because we are afraid of something doesn’t mean we should kill it. I hate spiders and bees, but I leave them alone because they are an important part of the ecosystem. Same with sharks. They should be left alone. I think the guy who wrote Jaws created a really great horror movie. It’s not his fault people use it as an excuse to attack sharks.

    • It’s interesting that Benchley wished he never wrote it – I hadn’t heard that until seeing the article. Ironically, some of the money from that movie went toward trying to save sharks. We definitely need bees and sharks and probably even spiders to maintain any kind of balance so it’s best to do what you do and stay out of their way. They’re struggling to survive much more than we are.

  9. Sad to say, but, as a child, shark fin soup was one of my favourites. Of course I had no idea how the fins were come by. Not sure many consumers did know. I don’t know how much Jaws influenced the way we viewed sharks where I grew up. Most of us knew about sharks already, and were wary of them, but didn’t consider them monsters. Jaws was simply entertainment. If you had told me at the age of 5 that sharks would be in such a perilous state of existence 50 years later, I would have thought you were mad. How quickly we lay waste to what is good in our world.

    • That’s funny – I would have thought shark fins wouldn’t be very good since they’re mostly cartilage (maybe they added some whiskey to that soup)! I’m guessing shark fins weren’t always taken in that way. It goes along with wanting everything fast and quick and when the demand rises, they don’t want to bother killing the sharks in a “humane” way first. It is amazing how much things have changed just in our lifetime! It makes you wonder what the future will be like.

  10. Another wonderful post Sheila! We are suppose to be a highly intelligent species, but I can’t tell you how often I have to pause and wonder how we can take a movie, book or any other ‘story’ and turn it into an obsession. I grew up swimming in the beaches from San Diego up past San Francisco and never gave them a thought. Now I’m on the Mediterranean and I’m afraid I still have no fears when I’m in the water. As a child, it was where I felt safest. Yes, I do realise that things can happen but you cannot keep me out of the water.
    I don’t know how well versed you are in Celtic legends but if you want to know the real me, I am a selkie! 🙂

    • Thanks so much! I figured you wouldn’t let anything get in the way of enjoying the ocean. That’s wonderful that you grew up that way too. When you grow up near the ocean, it holds a special place in your heart. All those days of running on the beach and gazing into tidal pools. My family comes from a very Irish background so I’ve heard of selkies – it’s nice to finally meet one! 🙂

      • Alas, now you have and the sea will always be my true north regardless of where I am! Now if I could just find my seal skin coat… 😉

  11. That shark finning sounds awful. My son is always telling me how awesome sharks are and I’ll admit to being in the crowd of “Sharks are scary” mindtrack. But reading your post, I see his point now and won’t tell him he’s crazy anymore. Jaws did scare me and I’m kind of terrified in the ocean whenever I’m in it because I hear the Jaws theme in my head and wonder if something is swimming up beneath me to eat me. Now I’ll try to remember those rays and be glad the sharks are eating them (and believe my son that they don’t want to eat me).

    • Thanks Char! It’s funny how our minds will revert right back to that Jaws theme when we’re in the ocean. But only three people in the world were killed by sharks last year. When you think of how many people were killed by people last year, that shows we’re much scarier! That’s great that your son is spreading the word about sharks!

      • You sounded just like him in this comment. Hee hee. He wants to be a marine biologist, so he’s quite the shark lover.

  12. As a kid i used to check out shark books at the library–i was always fascinated. Yes I’m afraid of them and I don’t like going into the ocean. Mostly bc I think of the ocean as the domain of whatever creatures live in it. If I’m visiting I need to respect and also understand the risks. I think I understand Benchley’s regret, that would feel like a lot of responsibility.

    • That’s great that you think of it as their domain. I don’t think we realize that often enough. Like Dianne said, “we’re swimming in their soup.” 🙂 We seem to have a tendency to think the Earth is ours but we’re just one species living here with lots of others.

  13. Wow, I had no idea about the finning. How sick can people be?

    I can’t imagine how that Jaws author must feel. But at the same time, we writers have to be interested or passionate about a subject to take the time to write about it, so…….you know. 😉

    So great to see a pic of you, BTW! Don’t think I’ve ever seen one besides your profile shot.

  14. I recently took my 12-year-old son to listen to a talk given by Capt Paul Watson of The Sea Shepherd, his life purpose to save marine life and increase awareness of how essential they are to our ecosystem.

    It was interesting what he had to say about sharks and about attacks. He says that the two places int he world where there have been the highest incidence of shark attacks are also the two places where they do shark hunts and kill sharks to try and make the beach safer. He said, when the local shark population declines, outside sharks enter and they are naturally more aggressive, because they are claiming new territory. So ironically, by trying to reduce a population, they are inviting the more aggressive sharks into the waters.

    I’m so happy my son is already interested and becoming knowledgable about the necessity to keep the ecosystem in balance at such a young age, I regularly sign their petitions and love how Sea Shepherd is really making a difference out there on the water.

    • That is interesting – it seems like there’s a lot of irony involved whenever we upset the natural balance of things. It usually comes back to haunt us. I’ll have to check out Sea Shepherd. I’m always signing Oceana petitions because they do such good work and there have been a lot of victories. It’s nice to meet more ocean lovers out there! That’s wonderful that your son cares and is interested in the environment. Just hearing that gives me hope for the future.

  15. I’ve always enjoyed good seafood, including shark, but as more studies came out about declining fisheries, I couldn’t bring myself to eat it very often. It’s a rare meal now when I do, and I always make sure it’s from a sustainable source.

    We need our big predators on land and in the sea. When they’re doing well, it’s a good bet the entire ecosystem is. Ultimately, that’s the best world we humans could live in.

    • That’s funny – I haven’t seen shark on any menu except for those fins on GrubHub. My dad went out fishing once when I was around 3 and after seeing him clean his catch, I wouldn’t eat it. It was kind of like a traumatizing nightmare. People think I’m crazy for living on Cape Cod and not eating seafood, but I’d rather be crazy. 🙂

  16. I signed the petition — thank you for posting it. I remember writing about the Shark Tourney on MV a couple of years ago on my blog. My brother and his family live on MV and when I’d gone to visit them I saw the posters advertising the tourney. I then did some research and was disgusted to learn about the hunting. These are situations where I am ashamed of our species — the need to kill for the pure “fun” of it.

    The finning is yet another disgusting practice of ours. I really hope that enough people sign the petition so that the restaurant — and others like it — take shark fin soup off the menu.

    • Thanks so much for signing that! I remember that post and thought of you while writing this one. I agree it doesn’t make sense that we still have tournaments like that when sharks are becoming more endangered. And the shark finning videos are so awful. Oceana has had a lot of victories like this so I’m sure this petition will work because of people like you – thank you!

      • The more of us who put out posts like this to bring attention to a broader range of people, the better. I noticed how many commenters on this post alone didn’t know about the tourneys or the finning. Look what you’ve done in less than 1,000 words! 🙂

      • Thanks Kate! People might not want to hear about some of these things because they can be too depressing, but at least petitions like that give us the chance to change it all around. We’ll keep hoping anyway!

  17. Great informational post, Sheila. I will admit that Jaws is a classic in our house. However, it’s just a movie. It’s not reality and I don’t condone finning or shark tournaments. Those are horrible and another poor sport of humans. People take chances when they’re in shark waters. Sharks don’t kill humans. Sharks hunt and humans look like their prey. I have great respect for what lies beneath me in the deep ocean. I was happy to read about Shark Savers, too, and will gladly sign the petition. Thanks for sharing this and have a wonderful weekend. xx

    • Thank you for signing the petition! I know you’re an ocean lover too. It’s great whenever we can join together to create change for a better future. I hope you had a fun 4th of July weekend out there on that other coast! xo

    • I couldn’t believe it when I saw a video of shark finning. It is horrible and sad and most of the time it feels like we can’t do much about these things. That’s why I love petitions like that – because they’re a chance to change things around for the better. Let’s keep hoping! 🙂

  18. I’m for protecting anything that maintains the health of our oceans. Have always been a big save the whale freak. Now I’ll be preaching at friends about sharks as well. Thanks for such an interesting and enlightening post. 🙂

    • The good news is the worldwide humpback whale population has recovered in the last few decades so it’s possible for these things to turn around. Thank you for getting the word out!

  19. Without sharks we would never have had Sharknado and for that they deserve to be respected and left alone. Perhaps they need a film like the whales got in Star Trek IV. Why we have an obsession with meddling and killing these glorious animal I do not know, I shall be signing the petition post haste

    • Hahah – that’s true – what would we do without Sharknado? I loved that Star Trek and the irony that the world could only be saved by a species that had gone extinct. Thank you for signing the petition! They give us a chance to create change and hope for a better world.

      • Interestingly the people of the future thought it was a good idea to do time travel and risk changing the future irreparably when they could have just put a CD of whale song on and sorted the whole thing out in minutes. I’d be an admiral in Star Fleet for that sort of initiative.

      • Hahahh – yes but time travel is much more fun, especially when it gives you the chance to go on a subway with Spock. Thanks for the laugh!

  20. Hello Sheila,

    You have a lovely blog. Thank you so much for sharing. I am an animal lover and do not like zoos or places that “house” dolphins and whales, and animal cruelty needs to be stopped, as it has been proven that people who abuse animals eventually end up doing the same to humans. Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada.

    • Thank you! I agree we need to stop all forms of animal cruelty. It’s always nice to meet another animal and ocean lover. Thank you for visiting and I hope the sun is shining on you in Montreal!

  21. I will definitely sign that petition, Sheila…thank you for this educational post, I’m all for keeping nature in balance. To me, Jaws was just a fun, exciting movie and book…but of course there are some who take it much too seriously. Hope the Humane Society is able to shut down that tournament in Newport too.

    • Thanks so much for signing that! I like Jaws too and it’s always fun to see some of the places where it was filmed on MV. I hope you’re having fun with Cheeky. I’ll look forward to living vicariously through more of your summer photos!

  22. Hi Sheila, Thanks for visiting my post recently. I’m not sure if you saw this footage of an absolutely amazing shark attack recently on an Australian Pro Surfer in South Africa so I am providing a link to YouTube.

  23. I only recently saw an article about this unfortunate event and simply have to add a command every time I see it linked:
    Yes, it looked scary. But let me recap: a shark stopped by (probably curious), tangled unexpectedly in the foot-line (as Fanning stated later) and thus dragged the surfer from his board into the water.
    The shark didn’t bite him despite having the time and opportunity. And despite being kicked and punched by the frightened surfer.
    This is already a shark attack?
    Transferred to a dog in it’s backyard (yes, the oceans do still belong to the fish), nobody would call this a dog “attack”, even if the dog did take a bite.
    Background about the topic:: http://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13412-013-0107-2/fulltext.html
    By the way, dogs and even the bees mentioned above are more dangerous than sharks (see http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/11-animals-more-likely-to-kill-you-than-sharks). but only sharks are considered evil in general…

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