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Real life 'Jaws' couple fight to save sharks

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Filming the real 'Jaws'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Australian couple have been filming sharks for nearly 50 years
  • Worked on 1975 film 'Jaws' and filmed numerous documentaries
  • Committed to saving species of shark endangered by increased shark finning

Watch the full Talk Asia show with the Taylors: Wed, Sep 8: 12.30; Thur, Sept 9: 03.30 ; Sat, Sept 10: 11.00, 19.30; Sun, Sept 11: 08.30, 18.30 (All time GMT)

(CNN) -- For nearly 50 years Ron and Valerie Taylor have been filming sharks at close quarters, bringing the lives of the ocean's most fearsome predators to TV and the big screen.

Ron, 76, was a spear fisherman before he and Valerie started working with film and TV companies who wanted shark dramas.

The conflict of hunting one day, then capturing the underwater life with a 16mm camera the next, led Ron to forsake spear hunting for full-time filming.

Getting close to sharks, including the few species dangerous to humans, has put the Australian couple in treacherous situations.

One of the most perilous came in 1969 when the couple had to fend off a school of sharks off the coast of South Africa while filming them feast on a dead whale.

Jaws was so well done that people believed that the sharks really were like that.
--Ron Taylor
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Valerie has also been bitten three times, yet despite the hazards of the job both remain in awe of sharks and committed to their protection.

They blame the voracious appetite of people for shark fins for endangering many shark species.

"World wide sharks are in serious danger, mainly for shark finning," Ron Taylor told CNN.

"The Asian market just can't get enough of sharks fin; the price has gone way up. Even Australian fishermen are taking shark fins now in the Great Barrier Reef.

"Some species of sharks are protected, like the Great White Shark... but with other species of sharks there are no restrictions."

The Taylors hope their captivating underwater footage has helped educate people that sharks deserve respect and protection.

However they admit that some of their work may have been viewed as adding to the negative image that sharks are dangerous.

"To some extent the documentaries perpetuate the myth, because they see people with sharks, but whenever you see documentaries with divers in the water and sharks around, those sharks have been attracted with bait," said Ron Taylor.

The couple filmed the live shot for 1975 film "Jaws" and did not expect their work would have the affect of almost scaring a generation from swimming in the sea.

"The problem was that ["Jaws"] was so well done that people believed that the sharks really were like that, that there was a vendetta against sharks and Valerie and I got a lot of criticism... the number of people learning to dive dropped off. So the dive shops were very unhappy about Valerie and I being involved in a film that reduced their commercial possibilities."

Yet the Taylors remain committed to raising awareness of the importance of marine biodiversity and shark protection.

"You've just got to tell your story well and have good imagery. And you can make a big difference to the way not only the government but the people on the country can view their marine wilderness areas, which should be looked at the same as national parks on land," said Valerie Taylor.

Ron Taylor added: "We really need no-take zones where marine creatures have a chance to reproduce unmolested and the fishermen don't want it. The want to be able to take fish from everywhere. We need marine national parks with no-take zones."

 
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