Wendy Benchley Biography

Wendy Benchley is a renowned global voice for protecting sharks and safeguarding our seas. As a scuba diver for fifty years, she has witnessed dramatic changes to our ocean’s wildlife and its habitats. This has motivated her vigorous efforts to help shape smarter, stronger environmental and marine policies with government officials, NGOs, and other civic leaders.

Wendy co-founded the prestigious Peter Benchley Ocean Awards,™ honoring her late husband’s legacy, in order to shine a light on the exceptional conservation work being done by marine scientists, researchers, explorers, and policymakers both in the United States and internationally. The Benchley Ocean Awards recognized eighty-three winners for excellence and achievement over the course of a decade and are now retired.

Wendy was the 2014 recipient of the International SeaKeepers Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given annually to an individual or an organization that has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to ocean conservation. She was inducted into the Women’s Diving Hall of Fame in 2015, she accepted the 2016 Beneath the Sea ‘Diver of the Year for Environmentalism’ Award, she received the 2017 Pegasus Foundation Wings Award for excellence in animal and habitat protection, and in 2019 she was honored with the Rob Stewart Foundation Lifetime Achievement for Ocean Conservation Award.

Based in Washington, D.C., Wendy is actively engaged in the marine policy community and supports many of the world’s leading ocean & environmental philanthropies.  As a WildAid Board member, she plays a prominent leadership role and is actively involved in its highly effective and widely respected global work to reduce the demand for illegal wildlife products, including ivory, rhino horn, pangolin, and shark fin. Additionally, WildAid’s Marine Program is committed to building 250 highly effective, well-enforced marine protected areas around the world. She is a board member of Beneath the Waves, an ocean nonprofit using cutting-edge research to advance scientific discovery and catalyze ocean policy with a focus on sharks and threatened marine ecosystems. She is also a board member of Blue Frontier, a leading national grassroots group with links to 1,400 ocean organizations, that builds solution-oriented citizen engagement needed to protect our ocean, coasts, and the communities, both human and wildlife, that depend on them.

Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, Wendy worked on many environmental issues as a trustee of the Environmental Defense Fund. She is currently a Trustee on EDF’s Advisory Board. Wendy started her environmental and political career in the '70s in her home state of New Jersey as a co-founder and Trustee of the New Jersey Environmental Federation. She was elected to the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders and was elected as a Princeton Borough Councilwoman for three terms. Among many legislative accomplishments, she worked on smart growth and sustainability issues, playing a leadership role in bringing to fruition a prize-winning downtown development and expanding affordable housing.

Wendy was married to Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws and a well-known voice for ocean conservation through his numerous books, articles, and documentaries about the wonders of ocean life and its many threats.