VARIOUS / FILE: Peter Benchley, author of book on which blockbuster film "Jaws" was based dies at his...
- Title: VARIOUS / FILE: Peter Benchley, author of book on which blockbuster film "Jaws" was based dies at his home at age 65
- Date: 13th February 2006
- Summary: (W2) LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM (JULY 6, 2000) (REUTERS) SOUNDBITE (English) PETER BENCHLEY, AUTHOR OF "JAWS" SAYING: "Shark finning is certainly one of the major problems, long lining is a another major problem. The core problem is management in general, let's look and see how many of these animals there are, let's restrict the number that are taken, let's let them breed at least before we kill them. So I wouldn't say finning is the worst problem, long lining is certainly a major problem as well. But finning is the most visible, most odious, most horrid problem because it combines not only the destruction of the resource but also the waste."
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- Topics: Nature / Environment,Obituaries
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- Story Text: Peter Benchley, author of the bestseller "Jaws" that was the basis for the blockbuster movie that terrified beachgoers and kept many out of the water for years, died at his home at age 65, his family said on Sunday (February 12, 2006).
Benchley, well-known for other water-based suspense fiction including "The Deep" and "The Island," which also spawned films, died of complications from pulmonary fibrosis, his son-in-law Chris Turner told Reuters.
Benchley was diagnosed with the condition last autumn and his health had been diminishing, but his death at this time had not been expected, according to Turner.
Turner said that the writer's wife Wendy and other family members were by his side at their Princeton, New Jersey home.
In addition to the fame he achieved as a novelist, Benchley was a reporter for the Washington Post and Newsweek, wrote for magazines and a speechwriter for President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1967 until January, 1969.
The Harvard graduate, who grew up in New York City and went to prep school in New Hampshire, was also the grandson of writer and humorist Robert Benchley, member of the renowned Algonquin Round Table that included personalities such as Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman, Robert Sherwood and Alexander Wolcott.
But it was the 1974 novel "Jaws," about a series of gruesome shark attacks that cause panic in a placid beach resort, that Benchley won the kind of fame rarely accorded any writer of popular fiction.
The book has sold more than 20 million copies, and Benchley even had a cameo as a reporter in the 1975 Steven Spielberg film, which spawned a series of inferior sequels.
Benchley said he had been interested in sharks since his childhood days spent on the island of Nantucket off Massachusetts. Then, in 1964, he read about a fisherman who caught a 4,550-pound great white shark off Long Island.
By the time the book, his first novel, came out in early 1974, it had earned more than one million U.S. dollars before the first press run, including 575,000 U.S. dollars for the paperback rights and from sales to books clubs and the film's producers.
Benchley continued his lifelong fascination with the sea and its potential terrors with "The Deep," about divers looking for treasure, and "The Island," in which sailors are terrorized by modern-day pirates. Among his latest books was "Shark Life: True Stories About Sharks and the Sea," which was published only last year.
Other books included "White Shark," "Beast," about a giant squid, and "Rummies," about an alcoholic's journey through recovery and rehabilitation.
Besides his wife Benchley is survived by two grown children. Funeral arrangements have not been formalized.
In 2000, Benchley joined forces with the conservation group WildAid to highlight the plight of sharks in the face of overfishing and dwindling populations.
Benchley pointed out the statistics of humans killed by sharks per year to sharks killed by humans saying "Roughly about ten people a year are killed by sharks around the world, there are roughly one hundred million sharks and rays and skates and other shark-like creatures that are killed by people." The two major problems facing the shark population are modern fishing methods like long lining, which involves a line upto eighty kilometres long covered in hooks catching anything that swims into it. The other problem is a surge in demand for the Asian delicacy shark fin soup. Shark fin soup is an expensive luxury which can cost upto one hundred US dollars per bowl and has become extremely fashionable among Asia's fast growing middle classes. The sharks are caught, then have their fins cut off and then are thrown back into the ocean where they either bleed to death, starve or drown. Contrary to popular opinion in Asia, the fins do not grow back. Around Asian waters are sites known as shark graveyards where hundreds of carcasses can be seen without their fins. The practice means wasting over ninety percent of the entire shark as only the fin is kept.
But Benchley thought the biggest problem is a lack of interest and monitoring of shark populations, "The core problem is management in general, let's look and see how many of these animals there are, let's restrict the number that are taken, let's let them breed at least before we kill them." Together WildAid and Benchley hope to encourage a massive increase in research into shark populations and end the trend for shark fin soup. They also hope to persuade governments around the world to introduce a global moratorium on the trade in shark products. But the biggest message put across was that people not sharks are the real danger to an animal that has inhabited the world's oceans for about four hundred million years.
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- Embargoed:28th February 2006 12:00