06/02/2015 12:15 EDT | Updated 06/01/2016 05:59 EDT

Jaws' 40th anniversary highlights film's legacy for sharks

Da-na, da-na. Da-na da-na da na — Steven Spielberg's blockbuster hit Jaws and its eerie music has heavily shaped the way people viewed sharks for decades, and the iconic thriller celebrates its 40th anniversary today. 

Lee Newman, curator of tropical water at the Vancouver Aquarium, was 12-years-old when he saw the film and says he wasn't prepared for how the film would make him feel after seeing it.

"Even swimming in lakes in southern Ontario where I grew up gave you a moment of pause standing on the beach ready to get into the lake," he says. "Ya, [Jaws] terrified a generation."

But despite the fear of sharks the film instilled in audiences, Newman says the movie might actually have helped the conservation movement by bringing sharks to the forefront of our society.

Jaws sparks 'silver lining' for great white sharks

Newman says much of the conversation around the movie Jaws and its negative impacts on sharks has led to a silver lining for the movement to protect them.

"As the pressure mounted to kill sharks or the justification was there to kill them, it spawned the other side of the coin, which was conservation, and people realizing that there actually is an important ecological role sharks play in the oceans," he says.

"Without them, our oceans would be a lot less healthy for fish stocks that we rely on."

By 2014, a report that scientists are calling one of the most comprehensive studies of great white sharks found their numbers are surging in the oceans off the Eastern U.S. and Canada after decades of decline.

The authors of the report attributed this to conservation efforts and laws banning the hunt of great whites.

Despite the recovery in their numbers, however, great white sharks are still listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

To hear the full interview listen to Jaws' 40th anniversary reveals changing attitudes towards sharks