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Steven Spielberg Says He 'Truly Regrets' How 'Jaws' Led To Decimation Of The Shark Population

The famed director opened up to the BBC Radio 4 show 'Desert Island Discs' about his guilt surrounding the 'feeding frenzy' of sport fishermen after the 1975 blockbuster.

Steven Spielberg
Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI

Steven Spielberg feels bad every time many people think of a shark, they think of the massive great white shark from his 1975 movie Jaws and react accordingly. It just wasn't fair to the sharks.

He's worried his movie contributed to the massive downsizing of the global shark population.

Spielberg, 76, revealed in a recent interview with BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs he feels guilty about the declining shark population he views as a result of the huge success of his 1975 film.

Jaws featured a tranquil New York beach village battling a great white shark devouring beachgoers.

“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."
"That’s one of the things I still fear."
"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.”

Despite Spielberg's guilty conscience, there remains disagreement among conservationists over the movie's impact.

Despite the fact the world's oceanic shark and ray population has decreased by 71% according to a global survey published in Nature in 2021, various scientists disagree this is because of the book, movie or other factors.

Chief executive of The Shark Trust Paul Cox said the loss in population was for another reason.

“The cases of shark population decline are very clearly fisheries overfishing."

But Jaws and its sequels were popular and live long in people's memories, so reactions to Spielberg's mea culpa were quick to swim on over.

It's a start, some said, but there's more to do.

Perhaps Spielberg should give up and let Baby Shark do the rest of the outreach work?

Forget the sharks, what about our nightmares?

Sharks should be defended from extinction, but that might be easier if they didn't look like that.

A worker at an aquarium offered some reality to the commentary.

Someone joked Spielberg should apologize for the impact on animals from another of his famous films.

People pointed out commercial fishing—not sport fishing—was the more obvious culprit in shark depopulation.

People asked him to put his money where his mouth is.

Or, in short, payment back for the damage he thinks he caused.

While commercial fishing may have had a larger impact, public perception and attitudes about sharks were influenced by the book and film.

The book's author, Peter Benchley, also expressed regret and became a shark conservationist.

But documentaries and highly anticipated events like Shark Week on the Discovery network have done a lot to rehabilitate sharks in the court of public opinion.