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Steven Spielberg Says He Regrets How Jaws Caused ‘Decimation of the Shark Population’

Steven Spielberg, JAWS, 1975

Steven Spielberg, JAWS, 1975

Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic, Courtesy Everett Collection

Steven Spielberg regrets how Jaws put a target on sharks.

The Oscar-winning director, 76, appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs on Sunday, where he admitted that his 1975 summer blockbuster — about a great white shark terrorizing a coastal town on the July 4th holiday — harmed the shark population.

“That’s one of the things I still fear,” said Spielberg. “Not to get eaten by a shark, but that sharks are somehow mad at me for the feeding frenzy of crazy sport fishermen that happened after 1975, which I truly, and to this day, regret the decimation of the shark population because of the book and the film. I really truly regret that.”

Jaws starred Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss as an unlikely team tasked with hunting down a vengeful shark responsible for a string of attacks and deaths. The thriller was a box office hit and won three Oscars, catapulting Spielberg to the forefront of filmmakers at the time.

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 10: Steven Spielberg attends "The Fabelmans" Premiere during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre on September 10, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 10: Steven Spielberg attends "The Fabelmans" Premiere during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre on September 10, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Steven Spielberg.
Michael Loccisano/Getty

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Late author Peter Benchley, who wrote the 1974 novel that was the basis for the movie and co-wrote the film’s screenplay, expressed similar regrets about the book and its portrayal of sharks.

“Knowing what I know now, I could never write that book today. Sharks don’t target human beings, and they certainly don’t hold grudges,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Some research and studies have looked into the so-called “Jaws Effect” and how the popular movie shaped public perception and harmed the wildlife population.

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According to Mongabay, a news service dedicated to conservation and environmental science, one study last year looked at 109 shark movies that came out between 1958 and 2019. The study found that the 2016 family film Finding Dory was the only to not portray sharks as threats to humans.

“What we found is that it was really consistent to how the news media portrays sharks. All of the films, apart from one, had sharks that were scary, that were biting people, or people fearing sharks. That was the really prominent thing: that sharks were scary,” the study’s author Brianna Le Busque said, per Mongabay. “… Some people just think, ‘Why bother conserving sharks if they can harm us.’ But what it also does is it makes people more likely to want potentially lethal mitigation techniques.”