Steven Spielberg has opened up about his feelings of “regret” following the tremendous success of Jaws — and its corresponding wave of damaging influence.

Spielberg reflected on the 1975 thriller film’s repercussions. “One of the things I still fear [is] — not to get eaten by a shark, but that sharks are somehow mad at me for the feeding frenzy of crazy sport fisherman 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,” the director said during an interview with BBC‘s Desert Island Discs.

The legendary writer and director emphasized, “I really, truly regret that.”

Peter Benchley wrote the 1974 book that the movie was based on, and he apologized to the London Daily Press for the same reason back in 2006. “Jaws was entirely a fiction,” Benchley told the publication at the time. “Knowing what I know now, I could never write that book today.”

The author added, “Sharks don’t target human beings, and they certainly don’t hold grudges. There’s no such thing as a rogue man-eater shark with a taste for human flesh. In fact, sharks rarely take more than one bite out of people, because we’re so lean and unappetizing to them.”

Chris Lowe, director of the shark lab at California State University at Long Beach, acknowledged the blockbuster film’s harmful impact to The Washington Post. “Jaws was kind of a turning point,” he argued. “It got people thinking very negatively about sharks, which just made it so much easier to overfish them.”

There is indeed evidence that the narrative spread by the popular film has had real-world effects. For example, a 2021 Nature study revealed that the global shark and ray population declined by about 71 percent between 1970 and 2018. In addition, 96 percent of shark movies portray sharks as very dangerous according to a 2021 study about sharks in films.

The reality? The Australian Institute of Marine Science estimates that each year, there are only about ten people worldwide who die from shark attacks.

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