Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water, we are being stalked once more. That’s right, this past week has been Shark Week, the Discovery Channel’s overload of everything shark. As the longest running series on cable, this program celebrated an anniversary of 30 years in 2018. It’s not just cable programming, you can sink your teeth into, there’s The Meg the new blockbuster that hopes to be this generation’s Jaws.
It has been just over 43 years since Jaws was released. For a small entrance fee an entire generation was scared out of their wits. Jaws was a huge box office hit making author Peter Benchley and director Steven Spielberg very rich.
Did you know that Jaws is the seventh highest grossing film of all time? It had over 128 million admissions in the U.S. and Canada alone. And then there was the flotsam and jetsam that followed Jaws like Jaws 2 and 3 and Jaws 4: The Revenge.
What’s 75 feet long and has really HUGE teeth?
Now you can get chomped by Megalodon. With today’s more sophisticated technology to enhance the fear of this species, this new film features a bigger, really huge shark. Did I say HUGE (only Donald Trump could say it better). The Meg, all 75 feet of it, will be coming to a theater near you in early August. It cost $150 million to produce The Meg. But, we ask the question: What is the real cost?
The Real Cost of Shark Week Again
Since Jaws was released in 1975, hundreds of millions of sharks have paid the ultimate price. Of course, before 1975 sharks had been fished. However with the demonization of the species in Jaws, this movie seemed to spread a message that it was ok for these “man killers” to be openly hunted. Partially, this film was a sign of the times. Marine conservation was in its infancy. The ocean and its creatures seemed infinite and there for the taking.
We have learned so much since then…. or have we?
Estimates indicate that over 100 million sharks are killed annually, either as by-catch or killed for the international trade in shark fins. This has brought many shark populations to the brink of extinction and many attempts to raise the public’s awareness of shark conservation. However, the annual obsession that has become Shark Week Again seems to feed into many of our unhealthy stereotypes about sharks.
Peter Benchley saw what was happening and greatly regretted his part in the indiscriminate slaughter of sharks. He spent the remainder of his life post-Jaws as a marine conservationist, lecturing and writing extensively about the need to protect the oceans and especially sharks.
The Peter Benchley Awards founded in honor of Peter’s work by Wendy Benchley and David Helvarg has over the last decade celebrated the work of 83 ocean conservation champions.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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