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Friday, November 14, 2008

'Jaws' author became shark conservationist

Excerpts from Peter Benchley's obituary article in 2006.

Peter Benchley, 65; 'Jaws' Author Became Shark Conservationist
By Valerie J. Nelson, February 13, 2006 in print edition B-11

Benchley, who became a conservationist and expressed regret over portraying sharks as killing machines, died Saturday of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive and fatal scarring of the lungs, at his home in Princeton, N.J., his wife, Wendy, said.

The movie became one of the top-10 grossing films of all time, when adjusted for inflation, according to Box Office Mojo, a website that tracks theatrical receipts. It also caused ocean-goers to be terrified of even dipping a toe into the sea.

“Jaws” was “entirely fiction,” Peter Benchley repeated in a London Daily Express article that appeared last week.

“Knowing what I know now, I could never write that book today,” said Benchley, who also co-wrote the screenplay for “Jaws.” “Sharks don’t target human beings, and they certainly don’t hold grudges.”

In recent years, Benchley became an active advocate for shark protection. He campaigned against shark fisheries and traveled around the world to make undersea documentaries that had him swimming with sharks and whales. He also lectured on marine conservation.

His final book, the nonfiction “Shark Life” (2005), was aimed at educating young readers about the dangers of the sea.

Near the end of his life, Benchley expressed a revisionist take on his tale of ocean-going terror to the Daily Express. “I hope that ‘Jaws’ will have brought sharks into the public interest at a time when we desperately need to reevaluate our care for the environment,” he said.

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