photo: MV Gazette

photo: MV Gazette

Something about the way in which Wendy Benchley speaks makes her seem both typical and extraordinary. She’s a mom, grandmother, wife and likes to work. She grew up in Montclair New Jersey, summered with extended family in Stonington Connecticut, lived for years in Princeton, New Jersey and now resides in D.C. …Sounds like someone you might know! But unless you are involved in the small world of conservation, you might only recognize her name from her famous first husband, the author of Jaws, Peter Benchley.

Make no mistake, Wendy Benchley is anything but typical!  Wendy makes waves, literally and figuratively. A short list of Wendy’s accomplishments and activism begins with her arrest (at a suburban Woolworth store while a student at Skidmore) for protesting in the 50’s about immigration reform. Stints at the American Field Service and as a Princeton N.J. councilwoman (while raising three children) honed her skills that are reflected today in her work for organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund, Shark Savers, Ocean Champions and currently, WildAid. 

I asked Wendy if there was a recent movie to share with our families, (the way that we all watched Jaws together in the 70s-usually more than once!), that might mobilize and inspire real action toward saving the majestic shark and other marine animals.  She recommended some of her favorites; Cove, Blackfish and the 6th Extinction but somehow they still don’t live up to the Jaws phenomenon. There is something about some popcorn, a tiny all American town, a rugged hero, an awkward everyman and a terrifying predator that resinates still. Wendy contemplates “turning the tail on its head” and telling the story from the shark’s point of view. Now that would be an interesting movie!

Join us at Sharks Matter: Busting the Jaws Myth with a New Script on this Majestic and Misunderstood Creature on October 22nd and hear more about why we must protect sharks. 

More about Wendy Benchley: William Waterway from Martha’s Vineyard interviews Wendy Benchley. Thanks to the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette for the photo used here of Wendy Benchley.