In 1975, Steven Spielberg's Jaws became a massive movie sensation. Unfortunately, its portrayal of a great white shark as a killing machine with an insatiable taste for humans led to run on fishers hunting sharks as trophies. And that is a consequence about which Spielberg has had decades of guilt. From the Hollywood Reporter:
"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 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," [Spielberg] explained [on the BBC program Desert Island Discs]. "I really, truly regret that."
Peter Benchley, who wrote the 1974 book that Spielberg's film was based on, also publicly apologized for his role in the sharp drop-off of the shark population, which George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research in Gainesville, told the BBC was like "a collective testosterone rush" that "swept through the east coast of the U.S."
"Thousands of fishers set out to catch trophy sharks after seeing Jaws," he told the outlet, while suggesting — similar to other published studies — that the shark population was notably impacted by the release of the movie. "It was good blue-collar fishing. You didn't have to have a fancy boat or gear — an average Joe could catch big fish, and there was no remorse since there was this mind-set that they were man-killers."