Growing up on the tropical island of Jamaica, it’s not surprising that Guy Harvey developed a love for the sea and fishes early on or that he would choose a career based on their study. However, his passions led him down a decidedly unorthodox path for a fisheries biologist.
Harvey built a marine art empire that has put shirts depicting marlins, sharks, and other open water dwellers on countless backs. In the process, he reveals glimpses of what is, to most, an unseen world, and raises millions of dollars for conservation and research efforts.
Harvey discovered his skill for scientific illustration as an undergraduate before beginning a PhD in fisheries ecology at the University of the West Indies. He formally studied herrings, but volunteer work cataloging data about contestants’ catches at local fishing tournaments would prove to be the more life-transforming experience.
A tournament friend introduced Harvey to a Florida apparel company owner who thought some of Harvey’s drawings depicting Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, would look good on T-shirts. Thus, in 1986, the Guy Harvey brand was born, which was the same year he received his PhD.
Harvey left a University of the West Indies fisheries faculty position in 1988 to build a marine art company that now includes a full range of clothing, as well as restaurants and other projects, although T-shirts are still the most popular displays of his work. “The art has been useful in portraying aspects of the natural history of fish such as billfish, tunas, and large sharks that traditionally have been hard to access,” he says.
Harvey never lost interest in formal research and donates a percentage of his profits to conservation and science. Funding supports the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, and Harvey also partners with more than a dozen other institutions through the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.
In some cases, Harvey assists with fieldwork, for instance, satellite tagging billfish off the coast of Mexico, and working on marine life documentaries. “There’s so much to learn about these animals,” he says, “I feel like we’ve just dented the really interesting stuff.”
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