The world of ocean conservation has lost a champion and advocate. Author and conservationist Peter Benchley, 65, died yesterday of pulmonary fibrosis. Beach-goers thought twice about entering the water after the publication of Benchley's acclaimed book, "Jaws." Soon after "Jaws" debuted at the cinemas, the public went into an uproar fueled by fear and ignorance. Men testing the limits of macho prowess took to the sea in a hunting frenzy and killed hundreds of sharks. For this reason, Benchley later regretted portraying the great white shark as a villain. Sharks are naturally curious animals that test anything in the water with a bite; scientist have discovered that sharks don't aggressively seek out humans as prey. Since then, his work - including the books "The Deep" and "Beast" - has inspired the next generation to learn more about the oceans.
Benchley had always been an ocean enthusiast but his passion for conservation deepened over time. He acted as spokesperson for the Environmental Defense Fund, worked with WildAid and traveled widely to educate the public about the brutal practice of shark-finning. To read more about Benchley and his work, check out his site. Today's New York Times also carries his obituary (subscription required).