Archive for the ‘Guy Harvey’ Category

Jul 15, 2013

Trouble (& Solutions) in Paradise

While I was born and grew up in Jamaica, I took residence in the Cayman Islands in 1999 and have enjoyed living here ever since. The main island of Grand Cayman, where I live, has incredible scuba diving, outstanding fishing opportunities and is home to the world-renowned Stingray City. However, even paradise has its share of problems.

In 2012 we had a terrible year for wildlife: the lionfish invasion continued, the Turtle Farm and its inhabitants got a log of bad press, our beloved stingrays were being stolen from the sandbar, a rogue male dolphin ruined many dives for visitors, the grouper spawning sites came under increasing pressure and a proposal to expand marine parks had many objectors. When its difficult to manage the natural resources of a tiny island nation, it puts into perspective the challenges that we have trying to keep the planet healthy and sustainable. Here, as with the rest of the world, there are some easy solutions for some issues and complicated solutions for others. In Cayman, lionfish have become the target of dedicated hunting tournaments as weekly culling sweeps by divers and concerned individuals. We’re seeing these types of eradication methods being employed in Florida, the Gulf Coast, the Bahamas, and all over the Caribbean. The best part is that lionfish are very good to eat. I encourage restaurant owners to offer lionfish on the menu and advertise just how good they are to eat.

Guy Harvey after a Little Cayman Lionfish sweep

In Cayman, our marine park system has served us very well for the last 26 years. Compared to all other Caribbean countries we have some of the finest shallow snorkeling sites and wall dives anywhere. However, with double the population since then and more demand on marine resources, there is not going to be much left in the next 10 year at the current rate of fish extraction.Expansion of the park system and better enforcement will continue to conserve our best ecological asset. The issues of marine parks, better known worldwide as Marine Life Protection Areas (MLPAs), is as controversial in the Cayman Islands as it is in the United States.

SPAG - Cayman Islands

In Cayman, the distinction between commercial and recreational fishing is very fuzzy. There is no doubt that the need for NTZs is a must in our situation, and new studies will show the importance of SPAG sites not seasonally but all year round. One example in which the NTZs is a must is in the protection of the Nassau Grouper spawning (SPAG) site in Little Cayman. The Marine Conservation Board took appropriate action and extended the ban on fishing the SPAG sites for another eight years in December 2011. The protection of the brood stock, the “investment”, during spawning season is common sense here, as well as in the all corners of our oceans. Allowing any kind of harvest-be it recreational or commercial- at a spawning site is recipe for disaster and truly killing the golden goose.

Unfortunately, the proposed legislation to protect Nasssau Groupers throughout their range during the five-month spawning season still languishes in cyberspace. One of the biggest hurdles we all face is the education of lawmakers about the importance of the marine environment to this small island’s economy. As with any protection-here or in the rest of the world-its’s imperative for grassroots groups to keep the pressure on government so that our recreational resources will not be depleted by those seeking to make a profit. It is our collective responsibility to conserve the marine environment and maintain the biodiversity of this planet

Fish responsibly and dive safely wherever you live,

Guy Harvey,PhD

Apr 1, 2013

PNAS – Illustratring the Oceans

Illustrating the Oceans

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.”

Dec 27, 2012

Rock The Ocean’s “Tortuga Music Fest” to Benefit Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Ocean Conservancy

Nashville, TN — Multi-platinum artist and touring sensation Kenny Chesney is scheduled to be one of the headliners for Rock The Ocean’s inaugural TORTUGA MUSIC FESTIVAL, April 13-14, 2013, presented by Landshark Lager. The two-day music festival produced by HUKA Entertainment, will play host to twenty plus pop, rock and country artists who will perform on three stages, located directly on the beach. Artists to include: Grammy nominated The Avett Brothers, Gary Allan, Grammy nominated Eli Young Band, Gary Clark Jr, Michael Franti & Spearhead, G. Love and Special Sauce, Kip Moore and Sister Hazel. A second headliner and additional artists will be announced in the coming weeks. Tickets to go on-sale Saturday, Dec 15 at .

The sands of Fort Lauderdale Beach will be turned into our oceanfront festival grounds, making Tortuga Fest, a music and ocean lover’s paradise. Fans will enjoy music performances with the sun and stars above, an ocean breeze in the air, and sand under their feet. Local culinary fair, sustainable seafood as well as traditional festival favorites will be served.

In partnership with Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and Ocean Conservancy, a one-of-a-kind Conservation Village will be located on site to educate audience members and provide them with the information and tools they need to help conserve the world’s oceans.

Festival creators Rock The Ocean and HUKA Entertainment are thrilled to partner with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. RTO founder, Chris Stacey said, “in addition to being a world renowned artist, Dr. Guy Harvey is a world-class conservationist. Our team is great at creating amazing concert experiences, and Guy and his team know how to help save the worlds oceans.”

“This is not your average music festival,” stated producer AJ Niland. “This festival will showcase world class talent, with world class amenities on a world class beachfront setting. More importantly, it is a festival with a purpose.”

“We are honored to partner with Rock the Oceans and HUKA Entertainment,” said Dr. Guy Harvey. “Rock the Oceans will raise awareness of marine conservation, while providing us with a memorable music experience.”

Join us April 13-14! Celebrate and conserve the ocean.


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Dec 20, 2012

Cocos Island Expedition

It has been ten years since I went to Cocos Island, so when friends, Jim and Steve Valetta and friends from Phoenix, organized the expedition from last year, I was eager to go. When people ask me where is my favorite place to dive… I say, “Cocos Island”. I have been on six previous expeditions from the early 1990s to 2002. Most of these expeditions were on board the Madam/Hooker during which time we spent each day fishing for 7 hours and would squeeze in three dives per day. Very full days! The Harvey berets were going full blast!

Cocos is about 300 miles off the west coast of Costa Rica accessible by long range dive boats or sport fishing boats. The only residents are a number of rangers who try to protect the island and marine park from the constant barrage of illegal fishing vessels, mostly Costa Rican. Currently, the no fish zone is 12 miles out from the island.

In the 1990s, the no fish zone was 5 miles from the island; so much of the island shelf on the east and south side was still fishable. The main species was the striped marlin, which averaged 200#. There were also lots of blue marlin and sailfish, plus a few blacks, so every day you had a shot at a grand slam.

The last dedicated dive expedition was aboard the Aggressor Fleets’ “Okeanos Agressor” with owner Wayne Hasson together with Kent Ullberg and my daughter Jessica, then 12 years old. We had a full boat with friends and staff, and had a great time. Cocos is like a mini Galapagos with all the same species, except sea lions and penguins. Jim and Steve booked us on the Undersea Hunter flagship, the “Argo”, a very comfortable and spacious 130 foot vessel that also carried a submarine operated by Deepsee.

Guy Harvey working on Galapagos shark painting. Time on the water like this Cocos Island Expedition are a major source of inspiration for Guy's artwork

Jessica and Alex were on board, plus George Schellenger who was going to shoot the expedition. This was Alex’ first time to Cocos, same for George. Jessica was going to host the TV production we planned and for the first time in 11 years of shooting my TV fishing shows and natural history documentaries, I was passing the baton to my very capable daughter.

It takes 30 hours to get from Puntarenas to Cocos and during the crossing, we enjoyed the beauty of the open ocean passing turtles, dolphins, a pseudo orca and we watched as red footed and nasca boobies dived on the flying fish pushed up by the bow of the Argo. We got to know the captain, officers and crew well during this time. Master divers Manuel and Pius briefed their teams, we fortunately were allocated to Manuel, whose sense of humour was hilarious. We were also briefed about the operation of the Deepsee submarine by Smulik Blum and team Ely, Felipe.

We anchored at a mooring next to the islet of Manuelita. With four stabilizers out the Argo was a stable base from which we were going to do four dives per day on 32% nitrox. The first couple of days diving were poor due to rough weather and low visibility at Manuelita and in Chatham Bay. The major change from ten years ago was that there were tiger sharks—yes tigers. In all the dives we had done in the nineties, no one ever saw a tiger shark or met someone who had. There were several individuals that cruised the channel between Manuelita and the island. They were hunting marbled rays and turtles. In fact, I did not see a single turtle at Cocos except for the last dive. The tigers had taken their toll. The silvertip sharks at Silverado were also gone, perhaps they had been driven out by the tigers or they had been caught. The reef fish were in abundance, but only a few hammerheads were seen. When we ventured out to iconic dive sites such as Dirty Rock and to Halcyon, the action picked up.

George had the brilliant idea to leave Go-Pro cameras on the various dive sites after we left and recover them on the following dive. Apart from our first dive at Halcyon with the current strong and lots of hammerheads, we saw relatively few hammerheads at the seamount, most were swimming well above the bottom where we hung in anticipation of close encounters. This worked well and showed just how the hammerhead sharks left the cleaning stations as the divers came down and then reappeared once we left. Amazing!

A change at Halcyon for me was to see a massive school of mullet snapper hanging high in the water column above the seamount. We would conduct our safety stops in amongst these vast schools. Their numbers and swirling motion were mesmerizing. There were often rainbow runners and bigeye jacks mixed in. This school rivaled the size of the mullet snapper school that lives at Pinas Reef in Panama.

At Dirty Rock there was a huge school of bigeye jacks hovering above the deep reef, again it provided an exciting way to spend your safety stop. The blue jacks prowled the reef occasionally taking a shot at the creole fish that sent them all surging towards the rocks for cover. A school of rare cottonmouth jacks also showed up at Dirty Rock. Often we saw big aggregations of hammerheads at the edge of visibility, but as we swam closer, they melted into the blue haze.

Before we went diving on our third day, I spotted a young whale shark about 18 feet long doing circles around the Argo. Just amazing! We all went in and snorkeled and dived with the beautiful shark before it headed back to the deep. The whale shark made another appearance later that day around the Argo.

Night dives in Chatham Bay were always exciting. I had the new Mangrove lights on my Gates housing as did George, so it was like having car headlights down there. We lit up the reef. The white tip reef sharks were active as usual, but I couldn’t get over the monster black jacks that followed us for the entire dive, all dives. They were so quick, had such good eyesight and gobbled up small goatfish, squirrelfish and cabrillas. Even in the day time at 90 feet with cloud cover the Mangroves lit up the fish and colourful substrate. They were worth their weight in gold on this expedition.

One of our best dives was consistently at Punta Maria on the west side, on the way towards Dos Amigos. Here a cleaning station catered largely to Galapagos sharks. These were a larger version of a reef shark, beautifully coloured, bronze and grey, big dorsal fin and tail, a slow swimming large animal, capable of great speed which I saw in the Galapagos when I witnessed one chasing young sea lions. At this site, we also saw a huge female marbled ray being escorted by several dozen ardent males, all piled on top of each other, like a bunch of huge spotted pancakes tossed from a basket.

Again George left the Go-Pro cameras on the site and this was very revealing. Not only did a lot of Galapagos sharks show up but several black tip sharks as well. We repeated this procedure a few times revealing cleaning behavior and returns by the same sharks several times.

Jessica and George returning at night from their 400 meter dive in the Deepsee sub

The highlight for those who went was to dive in the Deepsee sub to 400 meters. Jessica went with George piloted by Felipe on one dive and had an exciting experience looking at the geology and creatures of the deep sea. Loaded with camera gear and towed out to the drop off the sub took several minutes to reach that depth. On the way down they saw mobula rays and deep sea sharks. At the bottom they saw groupers, spider crabs, and scorpion fish. So much life…so deep.

Alex and I went on a shallow dive to 100 meters piloted by Smulik on the outside of Manuelita to a site called Everest. Here beneath the hazy thermocline there were still swarms of creole fish hunted by almaco jacks and yellowfin tuna, while above them scalloped hammerheads passed in silhouette. The acrylic dome of the sub allows you to see 360 degrees and you don’t feel hemmed in by the dome. It feels like you are actually in the water at that great depth.

During the end of the trip at a dive on Halcyon a humpback whale came by. Very cool! I had seen humpbacks there on previous expeditions in July. They are southern hemisphere whales that oscillate from Antarctica to have their calves in the warmth of Cocos’ protection. Similarly, when fishing out of Tropic Star Lodge, Pinas Bay, Panama in June, July and August, we see many of these southern hemisphere humpback whales close to shore, often frolicking.

Some of our dives were focused on the reef life. Most of the substrate at Cocos is volcanic rock covered in sharp barnacles. In certain places like Chatham Bay, there was a fair amount of healthy coral. One of my favourite dives was at Isla Pajara just around the corner from Chatham. Here, in the channel between the rock and the island was a large expanse on Montastrea-like coral and amongst it were schools of creole fish, yellow tailed goat fish, blue and gold snappers, Moorish idols, cabrillas, soldier fish, Mexican hogfish, trumpetfish, wrasses, damselfish, parrotfish, guineafowl puffers and boxfish. Frogfish were numerous. Several peacock flounders were seen courting females in amusing displays. While your head was in the coral, a Galapagos shark, squadron of yellowfin tuna or manta ray would pass close by. What a great dive!

Coming back from Halcyon on our last day, we saw that the Costa Rican Coast Guard vessel (that had been at anchor in Chatham Bay for a couple of days) finally stuck its nose outside and apprehended a Costa Rican commercial fishing boat caught fishing inside the 12 mile no fish zone. We wondered what would become of the crew, vessel and the fish they surely had on board.

The crossing back to Puntarenas was smooth and I made use of the time and calm conditions to complete an acrylic painting of a Galapagos shark being cleaned at Punta Maria. After thanking the excellent crew and leaving the ship we went into Jaco for the day to do some zip lining, check out some storks and macaws, see massive saltwater crocs sunning on a river bank and take a lovely mountain trail back to San Jose to round off the perfect Costa Rican experience.

I’ll be back!

—Guy Harvey


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Nov 29, 2012

Whale Sharks Galore!

Isla Mujeres whale shark expedition.

A recent filming expedition to Isla Mujeres, Mexico was aimed at getting as much footage of the whale shark aggregations for which Isla Mujeres and the NE corner of the Yucatan is famous, during the calm balmy summer months. The predictable aggregation of large numbers of whale sharks was right on cue.

For the last couple of years Captain Anthony Mendillo, owner of Keen M Charters ( has been telling me to get to Isla over the whale shark period. As many as 400 animals can form the aggregations over a couple of square miles of sea surface, criss-crossing, this way and that, mouths open feeding on fish spawn and plankton.

Our big group was composed of film maker and producer George Schellenger, my daughter Jessica and GHI staffers Greg Jacoski and Michele Grey plus Andi Marcher and his son James from Grand Cayman.

We hit Ballyhoo’s Bar on arrival for some fish and shrimp tacos and cold Dos XX while we waited on the whale shark tour boats to return from sea. When they did, our good friend Jim Abernethy was with the group and recounted how exciting the day had been. The same afternoon, I met with Al Dove from the Georgia Aquarium who was conducting a photographic census and tagging of whale sharks.

Day one was slow, with lots of other pangas in the zone jockeying for position with only a dozen animals. It was amazing how the situation changed every day depending on current and food availability, but Anthony said the sharks will be in a general area and can pop up anywhere. His typical day started with an early departure, spend a couple hours with the whale shark group before the mosquito fleet got there, sit out while they were there and after they left around 12 p.m., you had another couple hours with the sharks if they stayed up at the surface.

That’s exactly what happened on day two. The captain of Anthony’s other boat, Rogelio, found the aggregation early and we enjoyed two hours with them on our own. It is hard to describe the sight. Jessica and I went up on the cabin roof, the boat bobbing on the calm swell, engines off. Everywhere we looked, great sharks were cutting the surface with snouts out, mouth wide open, spotted backs awash, dragging foaming water behind them, dorsal fins standing high and tails swishing back and forth as the sharks moved forward at a couple of knots. A third of the team went in, the rest waited and took shots topside.

A group of two dozen mobula rays came by winding their way through the whale sharks. The plankton was thick, reducing visibility to about 30 feet. The viz did not matter, having spent time with one shark and stopped to rest, the next was a few seconds behind. We quickly learned to put our heads up and look for a shark that was swimming towards us then, get in position for the shot. You could either let it go beside you or you could dive under it and get the silhouette shot. Often, you were beside one and another would sneak up on you. You spin around to find a four foot wide mouth agape just inches away! Jessica said if they did not have spots they would appear menacing. True. They would amble past, turn around and come back for another pass. I tried to shoot every one that came by, often ducking down to confirm the sex, the young males had stubby claspers. They came in all sizes from twenty feet up to forty feet long.

George, a veteran of these encounters said you had to view these long creatures in zip codes; mouth section, mid-section and tail section. Many whale sharks had their own entourage of shark suckers, remoras, jacks and the occasional cobia. Some had bits of fins or tail missing from encounters with boats and fishing gear.

Which reminds me about the rules of engagement. This area is now so popular and so many pangas visit the sharks daily during the season of June, July and August that there is a cooperative that administers licenses and regulations for both operators and clients. We have to wear a dive suit (we all did) or a life jacket. Only three people from a boat in the water, at once, with a guide. No SCUBA diving. No touching, hanging on for a ride, etc. We had to leave the site by 2 p.m. We did. What a great day. On the way in we enjoyed some ceviche and took the inside route behind Isla Contoy, home to thousands of frigate birds.

On the third day, the whale sharks were hard to find and the fleet spread out. It was local fisherman who found a group about five miles east of where we were yesterday out in the blue water. What a difference the water clarity made. There were still lots of plankton, but we were out in 200 feet instead of 90 feet. The whale sharks seemed to mill, going around and around, so were easy to follow, jump off one go to the next as they came by in a procession of twos and threes. We used Go-Pros on poles to get the shot from in front of their open mouths as they swam along at the surface filtering food. Every so often, a clump of sargassum weed would go in a mouth and the whale shark would just blow it back out.

I also learned what the large remoras did for food. Whenever a whale shark defecated the remoras bunched up around its cloaca and consumed the thick yellow offerings. Occasionally, we were engulfed in a cloud of yellow custard as we tailed the big sharks.

That ended our wonderful bucket list experience with the bucket mouths. Each evening when we returned dockside, we had some cervezas, fish tacos and checked our footage and watched the sun go down over the mainland to the west. The boats, people and hospitality in Isla Mujeres are the best! There are some great hotels nearby and lots of good restaurants plus a superb public beach if you just want to chill for the day. I can’t wait to get back.

I was excited about the prospect of returning next season and doing some collaborative work with the Georgia Aquarium staff, tagging whale sharks perhaps. I also wanted to bring more friends and family. This was an experience everyone would enjoy.

On our last day, we went deep dropping for swordfish. Jessica caught a huge swordfish over 600 pounds, the largest ever caught by a lady angler in the Atlantic Ocean.

—Guy Harvey 


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Nov 6, 2012

Meeting with Sir Richard Branson

Michael Ryan, Guy Harvey, Madeleine Ryan, Jessica Harvey and Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin conglomerate of companies was here in Grand Cayman for the weekend. He gave the keynote interview at the Alternative Investment Conference held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel at the invitation of Michael Ryan, the event host and organizer. Other notable interviews were conducted with former US President George W. Bush and with former world number one golfer Greg Norman.

Several weeks ago, I had applied to meet with Sir Richard for a few minutes to discuss the potential for collaboration with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation in research and conservation projects that would be beneficial and make a difference in furthering our knowledge and therefore enhance the management process and conservation of large pelagic animals.

Sir Richard welcomed the four of us, Michael Ryan and his daughter Madeleine plus myself and my daughter Jessica. I gave Sir Richard a quick overview of the GHOF, how we raise funds and what sort of research and educational projects the GHOF currently conducts. I gave him specifics about tiger shark, mako shark, bluefin tuna and billfish research.

I elaborated on the role the research by the GHOF had played in showing the importance of the Bahamas archipelago to many species of sharks. In a collaborative effort with the Bahamas National Trust and the Pew Environmental Group, we convinced the government of the Bahamas to protect all sharks from commercial exploitation within their 200 mile EEZ.

Here in the Cayman Islands, the GHOF has broader interests in work on Nassau grouper conservation, lionfish eradication and recruitment plus climate change studies at CCMI in Little Cayman. We are also actively engaged in shark research and blue marlin migration studies.

Documentary film making has been a priority, so during the last year the Guy Harvey Expeditions team of producer George Schellenger, Guy Harvey and Jessica Harvey, have been on location nine times to conduct shoots in Panama, Nova Scotia, Little Cayman, Bahamas twice, Cocos Island, Costa Rica, Isla Mujeres, Mexico on three occasions teaming up with Captain Anthony Mendillo and crew to complete shoots on sailfish, mako sharks and whale sharks. Sir Richard was particularly interested in the sailfish and whale shark work as he has visited Isla Mujeres on several occasions guided by Captain Anthony. We discussed the limited research done on sailfish and whale sharks and the opportunity to collaborate with the Georgia Aquarium research team in future research and conservation efforts.

I went to some length explaining the value of catch and release sport fishing to Caribbean island and Central American economies. I emphasized the need for a regional approach as many of the large pelagic species cover great distances crossing several jurisdictions. This requires a regional approach in management and conservation as one country’s regulations may not be the same as its neighbours.

I explained the need for research work on all the species mentioned, as without the scientific data one cannot make management decisions and thus achieve sustainability and conservation. Fishing is the method by which we access many of these creatures for study, underwater photography, tagging and genetic work. Sir Richard was not keen on fishing but acknowledged it is a useful tool in this arena.

Sir Richard welcomed the opportunity to participate in collaborative studies and the consequent dissemination of information necessary for sustainability.

We moved on to some more local issues, the hot topics being the condition of the Cayman Turtle Farm and the issue regarding stingray conservation through law. Sir Richard was concerned that turtles could still be fished by local licensed fishermen, very archaic, given this was the 21st century and that they were protected world-wide. I pointed out that none of the current license holders have continued with this activity. The turtle farm itself needed to be divested I said, and turned into a better marine attraction whose focus was more on turtle replenishment, research and husbandry than on the consumption of the turtle meat. There are hundreds of thousands of turtle lovers out there in North America who would be only too happy to give $5 or $10 towards a satellite tagging programme and let the turtles go and provide information about migrations and long distance journeys.

The stingrays…poor stingrays… have been sabotaged and removed by unknown persons for the last two years at least. The proof was in finding four tagged stingrays in the Dolphin Discovery tourist attraction. The owners will not release the remaining six rays. No one has explained how the rays got to this location. Our ray population has been reduced by almost 50% in the last two years. Sir Richard said it should be very simple to change the law and have stingrays enjoy full protection from poaching given their ecological importance and their value to the island. We all agreed with that. After all, the people of the Cayman Islands and millions of visitors have an enjoyed and benefited from this unique experience for the last 30 years.

The value of the last ten years worth of research by the GHOF and the Dept of Environment has provided the base line information about this population. It is because of the scientific record of population numbers that we have been able to track the decline and the subsequent revelation of four of these rays ending up at Dolphin Discovery in West Bay.

The proposed expansion of marine parks by the Dept of Environment was a good move and Sir Richard commented that fishing has been known to improve in areas adjacent to marine parks. He said there are models out now that show countries need to protect 40 – 50 % of their shallow reef areas to ensure long term survivability. I commented that the Cayman Islands were a world leader in the formation of marine parks and in the protection of the spawning sites of the iconic Nassau grouper. I presented Sir Richard with a DVD copy of Mystery of the Grouper Moon and a copy of This is Your Ocean; Sharks.

Sir Richard was very gracious and listened to many of our comments and suggestions, making notes and the meeting was much appreciated by all involved.

We at the GHOF look forward to collaborating with Sir Richard and his foundation on several projects.

We also look forward to the day when the airport in George Town, Grand Cayman is expanded and to the arrival of Virgin Atlantic jets to our beautiful island.

It is our collective responsibility to conserve the marine environment and maintain the biodiversity of the planet.

Fish responsibly, dive safely.

—Guy Harvey PhD.

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Oct 5, 2012

Stingray Census, Grand Cayman, July 2012

The annual census of the stingray population in Grand Cayman was conducted the week of July 10 – 13, 2012. The research work was done by personnel from the Guy Harvey Research Institute in collaboration with the Cayman Island Dept. of Environment. The difference this year was that three veterinarians from the Georgia Aquarium visited to assist with analyzing the health of the stingrays.

The situation at the Sandbar in North Sound is unique, with a large number of rays, which are wild animals that are not fenced or contained but inhabit the shallow clear water with accessibility every day of the year. The socio-economic value of the rays to the Cayman economy is enormous. Rays are slow growing long lived animals, a close relative of sharks. Each animal may generate USD 500,000 in revenue per year therefore in its life time assuming they live more than 20 years, may generate USD 10,000,000 in a lifetime.

From a historical perspective, it is worth setting out the track record of research work conducted on the population of stingrays in Grand Cayman. Research was started by the GHRI in 2002 when all the stingrays that frequent the two main sites were caught by hand and tagged with a PIT (passive integrated transponder) at the base of the tail where it meets the disk on the left side of the animal. Tag retention remained at 100%, so many animals tagged ten years ago still have their PIT today. This has been a very simple and valuable tool to track the life history and growth rates of these animals.

For the period 2002-2003, one hundred rays were sampled each month over a three day period at the Sandbar. One hundred sixty-four rays were tagged, weighed and measured at the Sandbar over two years. There was never any difficulty in catching a hundred animals. The same situation was experienced in a subsequent census conducted by GHRI in 2005 and in 2008. There was recruitment of new (untagged) rays to the Sandbar and loss of individuals due to migration, natural mortality and possibly some predation. The sex ratio of 90% females to 10% males has remained historically skewed in favor of the larger females.

From 2010, tour operators and casual observations indicated a sudden decline in the number of rays at the Sandbar. The GHRI conducted a census in January 2012 and sampled only 61 rays in the standard three day research period at the Sandbar which represents a significant (38%) decrease in number of rays compared to the last census in 2008. Now that we had some facts, the next step was to find out why? What was causing the decrease in numbers? How would this affect the tourism value of the interactive programme? What action would the Dept. of Environment and therefore the CI Government take to learn more about this potential problem?

The numbers of rays have been constant since research was started in 2002 with recruitment and mortality being well balanced. GHRI personnel ruled out predation by sharks in the January census due to lack of evidence of shark bites (near misses) and the corresponding demise of sharks in the last ten years. However, some tour operators have reported seeing rays injured by sharks from time to time but no more than normal. Fishing mortality (intentionally or by accident) is a consideration. I say this because outside of the Wildlife Interactive Zones (WIZ) this species has no protection and can be removed and consumed by residents. There is no national protection for stingrays.

The health of the rays was another consideration, which is why the GHRI enlisted the support of the Georgia Aquarium veterinary staff. The research work was now becoming much more technical. Dr. Tonya Clauss (Director Animal Health, Georgia Aquarium), Dr. Lisa Hoopes (Nutritionist, Georgia Aquarium) and Nicole Boucha (Senior Veterinary Technician, Georgia Aquarium) all arrived here loaded with equipment to take blood and store these precious samples in liquid nitrogen until analysis could be achieved back in Georgia.

Over three days, the team sampled 57 rays (only 5 males) at the Sandbar (down from 61 in January) with assistance from DoE staff and several volunteers. The team spent a day at the original Stingray City and sampled 11 rays (2 males) and caught 3 rays (1 male) at Rum Point bringing the total to 71 rays sampled. The low number of males generally is cause for concern.

Each ray was caught by hand and transferred to the pool in the work boat where they were measured, tagged and then blood was taken from the underside of the base of the tail. Some of this blood was immediately centrifuged to make counts of white blood cells. The rest was frozen in liquid nitrogen for shipment back to the lab in the Georgia Aquarium.

From the blood samples the vets will be able to determine if the (monotonous) diet of squid fed the rays by the majority of tour operators is affecting the animal’s health. The processing of samples and data will take several weeks. At the end of this process we will have more knowledge about these valuable creatures and how better to manage their supplementary diet and well being.

Overall, a long term plan of monitoring the numbers of rays and their health is required. Everyone in the Cayman Islands benefits from the presence of this unique marine interactive site. Every advertising campaign or tourism related article featuring the Cayman Islands has these iconic animals up front and prominently displayed. It is time the CI Government returned the favor by supporting ongoing research of the stingrays’ population status and wellbeing by releasing funds in the Environmental Protection Fund collected for this purpose.

More updates to come.

Fish responsibly, dive safely.

Guy Harvey

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Sep 5, 2012


Setting the record straight with Guy Harvey

In the sportfishing world, Guy Harvey is a true renaissance man.

He can do it all.

Over the last 20-plus years he has somehow found the time to grow his brand into one of the most recognizable in the industry, create countless works of art, complete important studies on a range of game fish, start several foundations, write books, film documentaries, attend fisheries meetings, fund fishing expeditions, raise his family and still find time to go fishing.

How does he do it?

“I work hard,” he says with a laugh. “It’s as simple as that.”

One look at Guy’s track record and it’s easy to see his true motivations. His drive is not just about selling his products or building the Guy Harvey brand. It’s not that at all. Guy Harvey’s drive is all about giving back to the marine resource.

A History of Conservation

Guy grew up in Jamaica and quickly developed a love of all things related to the ocean. He studied marine biology and went on to earn a doctorate degree in fisheries management.

In 1985, he depicted Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man & the Sea” through a series of 44 original pen-and-ink drawings. This was the start of his career as a wildlife artist.

The Guy Harvey brand is now one of the largest and most recognized in the fishing world. His art can be seen in galleries, homes and boats around the world. The Guy Harvey clothing line continues to be one of the most popular among recreational anglers, and it is through this success that Guy has been able to give back to the marine resources he cares so much for.

Harvey began donating portions of the proceeds from the sale of his products to various causes decades ago, and his first major contribution came in 1997. Working with the Pompano Beach Rodeo, a popular fishing tournament in south Florida, Guy and his team helped to create an artificial reef by sinking a 200-foot ship. Now known as Guy Harvey Reef, this site has been an economic driver for south Florida, attracting both anglers and divers. That was just the beginning.

Two years later he formed the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University.

“I reached a threshold in my business career where I’d built up enough resources that I felt it was time to contribute back more, particularly in the field of fishery science,” Guy says.

“The way to make a change is to do the research work. Once you have the information, you can educate people, particularly kids, and it’s through this education that you achieve conservation. Without research work, you can’t do very much.”

Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Oceanographic Center of Nova Southeastern University has been able to provide the scientific information necessary to understand and make a difference as the world’s fish resources battle ongoing declines thanks to this partnership. GHRI is one of only a handful of private organizations dedicated exclusively to expanding the scientific knowledge base needed for effective marine conservation and maintenance of fish biodiversity.

This was the beginning of Guy’s commitment to cause marketing, which has become a vital aspect of his business model. Guy has established a pre-condition that any licensee of his artwork contribute a percentage back from the sale to conservation.

In the 13 years since its inception, GHRI has completed numerous studies, especially on sharks, which have undergone some of the most drastic declines of any ocean predator. The organization has also published 45 peer-reviewed papers in the last 12 years. It’s the real deal, and their scientists are out there in the field making a difference.

While GHRI continues to conduct research both domestically and abroad, Guy decided that he also wanted to do more outreach and educational work, so he formed the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) in 2007.

In the last three years GHOF has awarded more than $3.5 million in research and education grants. The grants have gone to several universities as well as state organizations and youth groups. Much of this money has come from strategic partnerships.

In the state of Florida, some of that money came from a special Guy Harvey license plate, and a new program with the Florida Lottery that features Guy’s art on scratch-off tickets promises to bring in even more funds.

“All these things add up,” Guy says. “We’re not only responsible for raising all this money, we’re also reaching further afield.”

When the Deepwater Horizon oil spill rocked the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, Guy Harvey and his partners at AFTCO stepped up to the plate. Guy created a unique shirt design and together they marketed the “Save Our Gulf” shirts to raise money to help the region get back on its feet. In just four weeks, they sold 50,000 shirts, raising more than $500,000.

To date the Save Our Gulf fund has given out $539,732 in grants across the Gulf region. A symposium will be held September 14-15, 2012 to review the success of the Save Our Gulf programs that these funds helped. It will also provide a platform for the various groups to corroborate about the experience and what they’ve learned. All of the research and recovery efforts will be laid out in black and white for everyone to look at.

The success of the Save Our Gulf program initiated some rumors that Guy Harvey and AFTCO profited from the sales of these shirts. These rumors are unwarranted, and Guy Harvey and AFTCO have nothing to hide. Anyone who has any doubt about how this money was spent is encouraged to attend the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Symposium in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The programs mentioned above are just a small sample of the conservation work and research that Guy and his colleagues have accomplished over the years, and that work goes beyond the fishing industry.

Guy Harvey’s line of military themed apparel raises funds for programs such as Wounded Warriors and the Gary Sinise Foundation. Guy has also donated his art to all sorts of groups over the years including Rigs to Reefs, the International Game Fish Association (of which he is a Board Member), Coastal Conservation Association and many more.

The diversity of the groups he works with is a testament to Guy’s open-mindedness. He’s always willing to listen and get involved in a cause, especially when it involves a species of fish or program near and dear to his heart, such as sharks and billfish.

Coming Under Fire

The list of projects and campaigns that Guy Harvey was worked on is long and diverse. And some of those programs have recently come under fire.

The Shark Free Marina Initiative is one such program that is being unjustly attacked. The shark free/friendly concept aims to educate people about the severe pressures put upon shark populations and to think twice before needlessly killing a shark for a photo. It encourages catch and release but does not advocate any sort of fishing ban whatsoever.

“If you are not going to eat a legally caught, legal-sized shark, then you should release that shark,” Guy says.

Much of the criticism stemmed from the role of the Humane Society of the US (HSUS) within the SFMI initiative, as well as Guy’s alleged ties to PETA and the PEW Environment Group (PEG). Any time you mention these groups it raises a red flag with recreational anglers, who’ve been needlessly attacked by extremist organizations in the past.

“I have difficulty in accommodating the role of the HSUS in the sportfishing arena,” Guy wrote in an open letter to his fans and anglers. “Other than encouraging catch-and-release where possible, I see no reason for this organization to exert any influence in sport fishing. I have an even stronger opinion of PETA, which is just too extreme to even get my attention.”

“As for Pew, I am not aligned with them personally, nor have I supported them during my 20-year tenure as a board member of the IGFA. The one instance in which I worked alongside PEG was in a successful effort to prevent the archipelago of the Bahamas — which was home to the last bastion of sharks in the western Atlantic — from being scoured of sharks by impending commercial interests,” he wrote.

The collaborative effort with GHOF, PEG, the Bahamas National Trust and many other groups worked, and it prevented the wholesale slaughter of sharks by “people who don’t give a damn.”

Because of his work, Guy is sometimes unjustly called a tree hugger, which is actually pretty funny because it’s so far from the truth.

“I’m definitely not a tree hugger,” he says with a laugh. “I love to catch fish and I’ve no problems with anyone taking a legally caught fish that they plan to eat.”

Guy Harvey has always taken an open approach to getting things done. “I understand why any association with Pew raises a red flag to those involved with recreational fishing,” he says. “I’m not a supporter of Pew, but I did work with them on one project. We went to the Bahamas to encourage the government to prevent commercial fishermen from catching sharks. Twenty years ago the Bahamas banned longlining and built a thriving tourism industry valued at up to $80 million from shark-interaction programs. It’s a great use of the resource. Yes, Pew supported it and I supported it.”

It worked. In July, 2011 the Bahamas protected sharks from the commercial exploitation. It took several organizations to make this happen, and while the sharks won an important victory, so did the marine ecosystem, as well as anglers.

“We have to collaborate, step by step to make an impact,” Guy says.

Giving Back

If you’ve ever seen Guy interacting with his fans at one of his signings, you can tell that he relates to all fishermen, because that’s what he is first and foremost.

“The public is a huge part of all of this,” he says. “Without them none of this would ever be possible.”

So next time you hear someone utter a word like “sell out” when talking about Guy Harvey, think of everything he’s done to help the marine species he cares so much about. And remember that each and every product with a Guy Harvey logo on it is helping fund more research and conservation for future generations.



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Aug 23, 2012

FLORIDIAN VIEW: The Water World of Guy Harvey

NOTE: This post is excerpted from an article in an issue of Floridian View magazine.

By Jeanne Willard

Standing over six feet tall with sandy brown hair and sun-kissed skin, Guy Harvey looks every inch the avid outdoorsman while sporting one of his signature button-down fishing shirts paired with khaki’s and casual loafers. Harvey, 56, is perhaps best known for his realistic marine-life artwork that reels the observer into the ocean’s depths with an explosion of color and dynamic movement. But, you may not know that he’s also a scientist who holds a Doctorate in Fisheries Management and captains a multi-faceted business empire that supports his efforts as one of the world’s leading marine conservationists.

Harvey sat down exclusively with FV recently to talk about his art, passion for conservation, latest business ventures, and for those enthusiastic anglers – his favorite fishing spot. From apparel to dinnerware, home furnishings to gifts, sportswear to fine art and jewelry to speciality license plates, the Guy Harvey empire is all about the cause.

Born in Germany, Harvey was the son of a British Army Gunnery Officer. He honed his fishing and diving skills growing up in Jamaica, and was profoundly influenced by Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and The Sea.” At the age of 17, the classic tale so captured his imagination that he took on the task of illustrating the entire story in pen and ink. Those drawings comprised the self-taught artist’s first exhibition in Kingston, launching his decades-long career.

Today, Harvey’s works are most recognizable by the meticulously detailed and brilliantly colorful paintings of large game fish such as marlin, tuna and sailfish. He relies on his scientific knowledge and observation of marine life in its natural habitat as inspiration, and has become an accomplished diver and underwater photographer.

Harvey rarely paints from photographs, despite his skill and love of photography, preferring the “minds-eye” snapshot of marine life interactions. Many of his paintings portray large fish circling smaller fish, and sharks feeding on stingrays, among other dynamic aquatic happenings.


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Aug 6, 2012

An Open Letter from Guy Harvey

Fellow anglers, divers and boaters,

It has come to my attention that that there is some concern, particularly among anglers in the northeast US, about my allegiance to the sport fishing community. Please know that first and foremost I am a life-long angler who loves nothing more than spending a day on the water in pursuit of big fish. It’s my passion and my profession, and I live it practically every day of the year. I am also a dedicated conservationist – I believe that we must fish responsibly and ensure the health of fish stocks throughout the world.

In an effort to broaden the message of responsible fishing, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) has supported, collaborated and partnered with many organizations over the past four years, including the Shark Free Marina Initiative (SFMI). Sharks are in serious trouble in the US and around the world. However, I am not advocating for a ban on all shark fishing. My position has always been for all anglers to take a responsible, conservation-minded approach to sharks – before you legally harvest a shark, simply consider what you are doing and why you are doing it.

The shark free/friendly concept was initiated to educate and make people aware of the severe pressures being put upon sharks populations around the globe. In the past several years, we have seen many shark tournaments – particularly in Florida – go to an all-release format, which makes for responsible fishing since most of the species of sharks caught in tournaments are traditionally not good table fare.

In contrast, the iconic mako shark is considered fair game in the northeast US, as are tunas and swordfish above federal size limits. Catch and release shark tournaments in this area with high minimum qualifying weights are well organized and have shark conservation measures at heart, as do the partial release billfish tournaments in the mid-Atlantic, which I have proudly supported for over two decades.

In addition, in the US and around the world there are areas of local abundance of species where anglers can legally harvest these species in a sustainable way, even though elsewhere in the world that species may be considered rare or overexploited. This practice is fine with me. I am all about sustainability in sport fishing and commercial fishing, as well as in spearfishing and diving. However, there are many anglers who are not concerned about sustainability and that is cause for concern.

Much of the recent criticism directed my way has stemmed from the role of the Humane Society of the US (HSUS) within the SFMI organization, and alleged ties to PETA and the PEW Environment Group (PEG). I have difficulty in accommodating the role of the HSUS in the sport fishing arena. Other than encouraging catch and release where possible, I see no reason for this organization to exert any influence in sport fishing. I have an even stronger opinion of PETA, which is just too extreme to even get my attention.

As for Pew, I am not aligned with them personally, nor have I supported them during my 20-year tenure as a board member of the IGFA. The one instance in which I worked alongside PEG was in a successful effort to prevent the archipelago of the Bahamas – which was home to the last bastion of sharks in the western Atlantic – from being scoured of sharks by impending commercial interests. The GHOF’s collaborative effort with PEG and the Bahamas National Trust worked, and it prevented the wholesale slaughter of species by people who don’t give a damn.

I also support shark interactive programs and have patronized many such programs in different countries. These interactions with otherwise shy, elusive creatures are inspiring, educational and very entertaining – all without killing a single animal. In addition, the socio-economic value of these interactive sites is immense to the host countries. Only days ago, I returned from a shoot in Isla Mujeres, Mexico where for 60 days each summer thousands of whale sharks gather to feed on plankton blooms and fish spawn. This interaction pumps millions of dollars into the Mexican economy each summer. If this phenomenon occurred in the Orient, then I am certain the harpoon boats would be racing the snorkelers to the sites every day.

Another issue I have difficulty accepting is proposed MPAs based on nothing other than whims of people who want to get rid of sport fishing. These proposed areas, which are closed to sport fishing, typically do not go through a scientific analysis to tell us all about the inventory of species or the estimated biomass from which a regulated harvest could be managed. However, specific time and area closures for certain species at certain times of year do work well. It is ludicrous to allow any harvest of any animal when it is reproducing, so closure of reef fish (snapper and grouper) spawning aggregations during their respective spawning times is a good management practice, as we have seen in the Bahamas and Cayman Islands.

There are many issues facing recreational anglers and many of us have conflicting opinions on how to apply solutions that best benefit the fisheries. Not everyone is going to agree with me on every issue. However, please don’t underestimate my dedication and commitment to the sport fishing community – along with AFTCO, I put back approximately 10 percent of all royalties generated by my art into fishery research and educational programs around the world.

I want to remind my fan base – as well as all of the naysayers – that I love fishing and I love to cook and eat the fish that I catch. I do fish responsibly – I release all billfish and undersized wahoo, tuna or dolphin that I catch. But, a nice bull dolphin, yellowfin or blackfin is going in the cooler! Swordfish are also fair game – in the tournaments we have in Cayman the small ones are released and the big ones are taken. In fact, we just landed a 600 pound plus swordfish on July 22 in Mexico. Not a scrap was wasted!

Tight lines and good luck.

Guy Harvey PhD.

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