In 1975 the Jaws phenomenon transformed ocean awareness and awakened a huge interest in sharks. Few movies have had the enormous impact that Jaws had and the myth of the killer, rogue shark, unfortunately still lingers today.
Fortunately, Jaws propelled Peter Benchley, the author of the novel that the film was based on, into the forefront of ocean conservation. Peter loved the ocean and as his wife Wendy recalls he was opposed to the depiction of the shark as a malevolent being intent on carnage.
For more than 30 years, Peter continued his research on the ocean, traveling with National Geographic on diving expeditions around the world. He wrote novels, articles, and documentary films about sharks and the threats facing the Earth’s ocean environment.
The Need to Recognize Ocean Leaders
During this period Peter collaborated with hundreds of marine scientists, photo journalists, researchers, explorers, non-profits and community activists. And both Peter and Wendy Benchley came to believe that the efforts of these individuals who have committed their lives to researching, protecting and restoring our oceans too often go unrecognized.
“When Peter and I talked about [the awards], it was with that thought in mind, that people need to be nourished and supported. Then they find new energy and new ways to go back to their work” Wendy explains.
Peter Benchley Ocean Awards
Following Peter’s death, this idea—to bring recognition of the outstanding work of individuals across a wide array of ocean expertise— became the inspiration for creating the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards. Co-founder of the Ocean Awards, Wendy Benchley has shepherded this annual event into what is now recognized as the ‘Academy Awards of the Ocean’.
But equally important, the awards serve to bring scientists, world leaders and policymakers together for a marine conservation conversation on a global agenda to protect our ocean environments.
Through their life experience together Peter and Wendy came to realize that this incredible world they were only just beginning to discover was under serious threat. As science began to explain the biology of sharks, the bigger picture emerged – the ocean was not an infinite resource – and that we are at risk of losing creatures before we have a chance to fully understand them.
Wendy Benchley’s Blue Ocean Summit Interview
Blue Ocean was proud to interview our good friend Wendy during our 2015 Summit, see her interview above and read about all the worldwide events on Shark Awareness Day and during Shark Week at: Shark Awareness Day and Shark Week Events Worldwide.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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