Undeniably the shark movie to end all shark movies, the 1975 blockbuster,Jaws , not only smashed box office expectations, but forever changed the waywe felt about going into the water – and how we think about sharks.

Now, more than 40 years (and 100+ shark movies) on, people’s fear of sharkspersists, with researchers at the University of South Australia concernedabout the negative impact that shark movies are having on conservation effortsof this often-endangered animal.

In a world-first study, conservation psychology researchers, UniSA’s Dr BrianaLe Busque and Associate Professor Carla Litchfield have evaluated how sharksare portrayed in movies, finding that 96 per cent of shark films are overtlyportraying sharks as a threat to humans.

Dr Le Busque says sensationalised depictions of sharks in popular media canunfairly influence how people perceive sharks and harm conservation efforts.

“Most of what people know about sharks is obtained through movies, or thenews, where sharks are typically presented as something to be deeply feared,”Dr Le Busque says.

“Since Jaws , we’ve seen a proliferation of monster shark movies – OpenWater , The Meg , 47 Metres Down , Sharknado – all of which overtlypresent sharks as terrifying creatures with an insatiable appetite for humanflesh. This is just not true.

“Sharks are at much greater risk of harm from humans, than humans from sharks,with global shark populations in rapid decline, and many species at risk ofextinction.

“Exacerbating a fear of sharks that’s disproportionate to their actual threat,damages conservation efforts, often influencing people to support potentiallyharmful mitigation strategies.

“There’s no doubt that the legacy of Jaws persists, but we must be mindfulof how films portray sharks to capture movie-goers. This is an important stepto debunk shark myths and build shark conservation.”

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