'We kill 100m of them a year - they kill 12 of us'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 12:00am

The author who terrified a generation of beach-goers with his story about man-eating sharks admitted yesterday he had got it wrong when he portrayed them as predators with a taste for people.

Peter Benchley said the book was based on mistaken beliefs. 'What's been learned in the last 25 years is that the assumptions that Jaws was based on were mostly erroneous,' he said.

'Much of the shark's aggressive behaviour is now known to be not quite as I portrayed it. Back then, it was thought and accepted by everybody that great white sharks targeted human beings. Now we know that great white sharks - indeed all sharks - avoid people, and 70 or 80 per cent of the time if they bite a human being it's by accident.

'A hundred million sharks are being killed every year, and only 12 people around the world are killed by sharks. You're much more likely to be killed by bees, dogs, bats and, certainly in Hong Kong, automobiles.

'At the time, the knowledge I had was pretty good for what was known, but over the past quarter century we have learnt so much. I could not possibly tell the same story today. I do not regret writing Jaws, because obviously personally it gave me freedom.' Mr Benchley admitted he had not seen any of the three sequels to the original film, having sold the rights. He denied his book and the films had created a tide of anti-shark sentiment. 'I certainly didn't create the fear of sharks. That is as old as mankind.'