Dec 27, 2012

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

by admin

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 www.tortugamusicfestival.com .

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.

 

For a complete list of our other featured blog posts and to see the full line of Guy Harvey Sportswear, please visit: www.guyharveysportswear.com

 

 

Dec 20, 2012

Cocos Island Expedition

by Guy Harvey

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

 

For a complete list of our other featured blog posts and to see the full line of Guy Harvey Sportswear, please visit: www.guyharveysportswear.com

Nov 29, 2012

Whale Sharks Galore!

by Guy Harvey

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 (http://www.islamujeressportfishing.com/) 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 

 

For a complete list of our other featured blog posts and to see the full line of Guy Harvey Sportswear, please visit: www.guyharveysportswear.com

 

 

Nov 20, 2012

You CAN Fish in Rough Water

by Peter B Wright

The weather forecast was for 25 to 30 knot winds as a strong high pressure system south of the Australian continent built a strengthening ridge along Australia’s Queensland coast. Yesterday had dawned calm, but as the wind increased from a gentle breeze to a 15 to 20 knot trade wind a sea had started to build. Late in the afternoon, we saw the first of several black marlin surfing down the growing chop and rising swell. By evening, we had tagged and released 3 marlin, breaking a week long spell of slow fishing which had seen only an occasional marlin rising to our baits in the hot, calm, November weather.

Over breakfast that morning, our charter guest looked at the white caps on the sheltered water behind number 5 ribbon reef and watched the booming ocean swell outside the reef crash onto the reef front. “I don’t think I want to fish today.” he said. “I’d rather just lie around the mother boat and read.” “You don’t mind if we go, do you?” was my reply. “The boys and I have been waiting for this. Those tailers we saw yesterday should be just the start of it. Every black marlin in the Coral Sea will have tailed in against the reef overnight, and if they eat like the ones did yesterday it’ll be the best day all year!”

Our charter’s friend and fishing companion/guest said he would like to join us if we didn’t mind. After a relaxing morning on “mom” we set out just before noon. “As rough as it is, we won’t be in any hurry.” I told the crew. “If it’s as good as I think we’ll have all we need. If it’s slow, we’ll have more than we want—even with a late start.”

A "Good" Day on the GBR, Australia!

Overnight, the swell had built, but had time to get farther apart than the uncomfortable, short, steep, chop of the late afternoon of the day before. Duyfken could rise with the large (12 foot plus) seas instead of crashing against the steep faces of yesterday’s smaller, but far more nasty chop. By 1:30 PM, we were back at the motherboat having released 3 marlin and boated one well over 1,000 pounds. My mate had to lean out over our transom and knock vigorously on the motherboat’s wooden hull to roust the sleepers inside to weigh our guest’s fish of a lifetime. His richer, but less adventuresome, friend has still never caught a really big marlin, even though we went back out and released several more nice ones later that day.

If the fishing grounds are close enough to a safe harbor or anchorage, we can fish in some truly rough water. In areas where we have to travel long distances to and from the grounds, we usually stay in on days we would relish in a spot like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, where yards, rather than miles, measure the distance to the fishing grounds.

Even so, on rough days, special tactics are often required. On really rough days, with heaving decks, stand up fishing is a BAD idea. Trying to maintain balance with both hands occupied is difficult and dangerous. It can be safe to fish even the heaviest tackle from a well-built fighting chair, but foolish to try to stand up against the transom of a wave-tossed sport fishing boat. Even with expert professional crew, it is the question of their safety while trying to stand up and handle a fish on the leader—that is often the main reason for my canceling a trip due to rough weather.

Trolling tactics also have to be modified to suit the conditions. Forget all the hokus pocus about trolling lures on exact positions on the wake. Climbing the face of big seas trolling speeds will drop and rise with the waves. Downsea speeds can jump from 6 or 7 to up to 12 or 14 knots as we surf down the wave fronts. Our wake is changing all over the place and complicated calm water lure shapes are useless in the rapidly changing conditions. (Don’t tell me to only quarter the sea – I AM going to get in front of that tailing marlin or tuna regardless of whether it is upsea, downsea or directly in the trough!!)

Forget staggered trolling patterns. On high wind days troll paired baits or lures of equal weight, equidistant behind the transom. They will be less prone to tangle each other when blown sideways. Trolling fewer baits in rough weather makes life easier and raises overall efficiency.

I always fight fish by chasing them in forward gear rather than reverse. This is especially important in big seas when backing up into breaking waves is down right dangerous — and STUPID. By motoring forward upsea and passing the fish, you reach a position where you can back up downsea in the final manuever of the fight.

In the end it is the safety of the boat and her crew that dictates whether we go or not and it is always better to err on the side of caution.

— Peter B Wright

For a complete list of our other featured blog posts and to see the full line of Guy Harvey Sportswear, please visit: www.guyharveysportswear.com

 

 

 

 

Nov 16, 2012

Soles4Souls

by Bill Shedd

Four years ago, I received a phone call from Jack McCulloch (McCulloch’s Wide Shoes) who said he had linked up with a group called Soles4Souls, an organization started by two Alabama brothers. Their mission is to pass out shoes to people who need them, and since 2005 had given away over 16,000,000 pairs. They were putting together a program to pass out shoes to folks in the East Cape of Mexico, and they were looking for T-shirts to go along with the shoes. Timing is everything as we had recently counted in over 5,000 second Guy Harvey T-shirts. The Guy Harvey brand is very picky about quality, so what would be a first quality product in many lines, becomes a second with Guy Harvey, as even the very slightest flaw is tossed into the second group.

Families waited in line from 1:00 a.m.for the 7:00 a.m. start time

Needless to say, he Guy Harvey T-shirts were a big hit in Los Barriles, a small fishing village about 50 miles south of La Paz. In the last four years, we at AFTCO, have donated over 16,000 Guy Harvey T-shirts to our Mexican friends to the south. Last year, daughter Christie went down to help pass out the shirts. She came back with such heart-warming stories of the event that this year we decided to make it a family trip.

After receiving a pair of shoes, people wait in line for a Guy Harvey T-shirt

Wife, Jill and I joined Christie for this year’s event, and it goes without saying that we will be back next year. Who would not want to return? It takes place at Palmas De Cortez, the premier fishing resort on the East Cape of Mexico where you only have to go a short distance offshore to find Dorado, Yellowfin tuna, marlin and more. We arrived a day early to insure a chance to check out this awesome offshore fishery. The next day we went to the distribution site at 5:00 AM. The first thing that struck me was that several thousand people were already in line for the 7:00 AM start time. Many had been there with their children since 1:00 AM.

Bill Shedd hands out Guy Harvey T-Shirts as Jill Shedd waits to send people to next station and Christie Shedd passes on next shirt

This boy can't wait to get home and try on his new tuna shirt

The next thing that struck me was how well organized the event was. Imagine over 3,000 people having their feet measured and fitted with the proper size shoe. Seasoned shoe industry professionals, from several different shoe companies, joined forces under Jack’s leadership to insure the operation was a well-oiled machine and that everybody left with a smile. To see the faces of the moms and the kids as you handed them a Guy Harvey T-shirt was priceless. Yes, we will be back next year!

– Bill Shedd

 

For a complete list of our other featured blog posts and to see the full line of Guy Harvey Sportswear, please visit: www.guyharveysportswear.com

 

 

Nov 6, 2012

Meeting with Sir Richard Branson

by Guy Harvey

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.

For a complete list of our other featured blog posts and to see the full line of Guy Harvey Sportswear, please visit: www.guyharveysportswear.com

 

Oct 31, 2012

Tiger Beach October Shoot

by Guy Harvey

It has been exactly two years since my last expedition to Tiger Beach. The goal then was to make the (award winning) documentary “This is your ocean; Sharks” with Jim Abernethy and Wyland. The timing was important as the documentary became a useful educational tool for the people of the Bahamas and specifically the Bahamas National Trust in helping have sharks in the Bahamas protected from commercial exploitation.

The main reason why the Bahamas has so many sharks compared to anywhere else in the western Atlantic is because long line fishing was banned from the Bahamas 200 mile EEZ twenty years ago.

Shark interactive programmes or shark ecotourism in the Bahamas currently generate eighty million dollars per year in revenue. This is a sustainable use of the resource that does not kill a single shark.

The dive team on this expedition was made up of Kent Ullberg NA, America’s most famous wildlife sculptor, my close friend and mentor. Jessica, my daughter, Chris Peterson owner of Hell’s Bay Boat Works and GHOF board member, 15 year old Madeleine Ryan and Andi Marcher, restauranteur from Grand Cayman. Shooting this follow up documentary was George Schellenger.

Jim Abernethy’s crew was captain Matt Heath, with Michele Heller and Chad Shagren. Michele had worked with us before on a bluefin tuna shoot in Nova Scotia last year where she was the assistant to Dr. Molly Lutcavage in tagging giant bluefin tuna.

Jessica Harvey about to release young green turtles as part of an FAU study

The first three days were very windy, with rough conditions and poor visibility generally over the area. The first morning we released several dozen juvenile green and ridley turtle for a study being conducted by Florida Atlantic University (FAU). We were limited to a couple of dives on an incoming tide with lots of reef sharks, lemon sharks and a few nurse sharks coming to the bait crates. It seemed the tiger sharks were not comfortable in the adverse conditions. By the afternoon of the third day, the wind switched to the east and the remaining four days were under ideal conditions, so we could go to work.

Kent has had limited exposure to large sharks, only completing one monumental piece, the mako shark at the Nova South Eastern University’s Taft Building. This expedition was important for him to get close to tiger sharks in their natural environment to better understand form and function, ecology and life history.

After a couple days of 25 knot winds which stirred up the water and limited our diving we got into the rhythm of multiple dives per day. We spent two days at a 60 foot deep site called “Hammertime”. Bait crates were deployed at the surface and on the sand near the reef. The results were good attracting several dozen Caribbean reef sharks, a dozen big lemon sharks and then the tiger sharks started coming in, one, then two, four and five. The well trained crew kept the tigers off the bait crates and we were afforded many great photographic opportunities. Jim or Matt would set up shots so Jessica could shoot the sharks with beautifully coloured sponges and corals in the fore ground and different species of sharks in the middle distance and the background.

One of the tiger sharks had a SPOT tag on its dorsal fin. Unfortunately, the tag was fouled by algae and it had rotated 90 degrees to the aft so the antenna was pointing at the tail. Jim was able to clean off the tag. He took a bunch of photos of the tag placement and we later identified this shark as Christina which we tagged at tiger beach on our December 2010 expedition. The close ups show that the fin had been damaged (in mating when the male holds on to the dorsal fin) and the healing process had caused the tag to rotate so it was no longer performing according to Dr. Mahmood Shivji of the GHRI.

The last two days were flat calm and we stayed at a site Jim calls “Crystal Beach”. This is the closest part of tiger beach to the drop off, so the water is clearest here particularly on an incoming tide. We left the crates soaking overnight and got going early, before breakfast with the first of five dive dives for the day. A couple of tigers were already on site. One had three long line hooks and leaders in its jaw. Jim hatched a plan to catch this shark and remove the hooks. Unfortunately the shark was too shy to come in as close as this project required.

The chum line attracted a large number of baitfish including yellowtail snappers, blue runners, horseye jacks, groupers, and ballyhoo. These species added lots of colour to the shots we were taking. Jim was coaching Jessica in her photography while Kent and Maddy were absorbing all the shapes, anatomy and postures of successive tiger sharks as they came and went. Their subtle skin colours and vivid stripes separate this species from all other large sharks. Andi and Chris got used to having tiger sharks all over them and took hours of great footage in pristine conditions. George kept all the cameras going and we loaded up on new footage.

Leave it to Guy Harvey to guide the crew to catch and release a blue marlin on the return trip from a shark filming expedition

For me it was particularly gratifying sitting on the bottom in 20 feet of water for hours and hours with unlimited visibility surrounded by four species of sharks now protected in law by the Bahamian government.

Matt Heath, our captain said it was wheels up at 4.30pm on the last day. We enjoyed the last dive, got squared away and you know me…. if the boat is going forward I am going to put out a couple of lines.

Andi and I put out a spread of four marlin lures, two short, one medium and one long. We were crossing the Gulf Stream with 82 degrees water temperature so there was chance of seeing a marlin or a wahoo.

Not 20 minutes later, a fine blue marlin crashed the stinger lure but did not hook up. It made two more attempts and I dropped the lure back as it ate. Hook up! From the bill thickness and height of the dorsal, I could see this was marlin around 250#. I passed the rod down to the main deck and under Andi’s critical eye Chad took the job of working on the fish. The marlin did not jump and the line kept peeling out and down until there was very little left on the reel. Oops! Finally the marlin stopped and there was 500 yards of line out and down. Chad had the daunting task of working the marlin back up from great depth, but he is young and strong and in the next 45 minutes did a great job.

Andi wired the marlin and we all took photos of it at the boat side, its vivid neon fins glowed in the dark evening conditions, before it was released. A good expedition just became a great expedition.

Thanks Jim and crew. Another great adventure! The close encounters were very inspirational for Kent and myself to say nothing of the thousands of images captured by all the photographers.

—Guy Harvey PhD.

 

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Oct 22, 2012

Fishing the Nest

by Greg Stotesbury

Big yellowtail love to eat squid around the nest

During the spring months in Southern California, before the tuna and billfish arrive, we spend much of the early season targeting yellowtail, white sea bass and halibut in areas where the market squid are spawning. These squid “nests” attract all kinds of sea life from huge bird schools and feeding sea lions up top, to massive aggregations of sharks, rays, black sea bass and other bottom feeders anxious to take advantage of the easy bounty the spawning squid provide. The squid nests are typically found over sandy or muddy bottom in the 20 fathom depth range on the outside of the kelp lines and rocky structure along the coast or at the islands.

The easiest way to locate a nest is to look for large flocks of gulls sitting on the water and occasionally diving and picking squid off the surface. Sea lions will often be seen in the same zone “chewing their cud” as they try and swallow the squid they catch below the surface. Schools of feeding porpoise will sometimes be in the mix with the gulls and seals. The concentration of life around the squid nest is usually easy to spot by all the surface activity.

The other way to locate the actual nest is to find it on the sonar. Squid concentrations show up on color sonar as a thick, blue “fuzz” on the screen. Many times the squid will look like interference on the sonar screen due to their lack of a swim bladder to reflect a stronger sonar signal. Sardines and mackerel show up as stronger green or red sonar marks, which to the practiced eye don’t look like squid. Ideally, there will be larger deep-red marks around the squid concentration which indicate the presence of larger predators like sea bass, yellowtail and calicos. Another simple way to find a nest is to look for commercial squid light-boats anchored over the spot waiting for night to fall.

 

White sea bass are considered the ultimate prize and are often jumbo size when feasting on spawning squid

Once a squid nest is located, I like to meter around with the sonar and find the area with the largest concentration of squid and game fish marks on the machine. It is always best to anchor just up-current from the best marks and then scope back until the boat is positioned over the prime zone. You should be able to drop down and catch the squid or their eggs if you are right on the spot. The squid spawn millions of eggs and attach them to the sandy bottom in large balls which are easily snagged with bottom rigs. I will always have a rod rigged with a gang of squid catchers to drop down and sample the life on the bottom. Sometimes the squid will grab the squid catchers in sufficient numbers to fill a bait tank with a couple scoops of hook bait in short order.

I like to fish several types of outfits when targeting yellows and sea bass over a nest. My favorite rig is a dropper loop set up with a 4-6oz. torpedo sinker on the bottom and a 6/0-8/0 octopus-style hook on the short dropper 3 feet above the sinker. I always hook 2 squid on the hook to mimic the look of 2 mating squid suspended above the nest. Leader material should be 40-60lb test fluorocarbon. I like 50-65lb braided main line spooled on a 3/0-sized conventional reel mounted on an 8’ medium heavy live bait rod. The other favorite terminal rig on this same outfit is a white 1oz. bucktail jig with a couple squid pinned on the hook. A small white or glow-in-the-dark jig with a single hook can also be deadly for yellows, sea bass and big halibut when tipped with a couple squid and fished in the rod holder with the jig positioned just off the bottom. Most of the outfits used to fish the nest can be placed in the boat’s rod holders and fished in-gear. Game fish are seldom shy when they slurp up a couple squid fished on bigger hooks and will usually hook themselves.

The real beauty of fishing the squid nest is the lack of cover for bigger yellows and sea bass to run into once they are hooked. The clean sand bottom in 20 fathoms almost guarantees even the biggest fish can be easily landed if they are kept from wrapping the boat’s anchor line and chain. A good squid nest can give up a 30lb halibut, a 40lb yellow and a 50lb white sea bass on consecutive drops if you are there at the right time. It’s definitely worth the effort to find a nest and take advantage of the bounty the spawning squid can attract!

 

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Oct 5, 2012

Stingray Census, Grand Cayman, July 2012

by Guy Harvey

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 25, 2012

Breaking News: Success in Senate for Billfish Conservation Act

by admin

Great news for the future health of the billfish resource and for sportfishermen. The IGFA and NCMC, working together in partnership with other sportfisthing groups and concerned anglers have now successfully move the Billfish Conservation Act through both the House and Senate. See below for details.

— Bill Shedd

After four years of work, recreational anglers and ocean conservationists can today celebrate a rare feat: the Billfish Conservation Act passed the Senate and is now headed to President Obama’s desk for his signature. Very few bills have become law this Congress due to partisan disagreements, but the Billfish Conservation Act has been overwhelmingly supported by both parties in both chambers. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) sponsored the original bill in the Senate, and with the help of Florida Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), they worked magic to get it passed.

The support of these key Congressmen has bolstered the campaign to conserve imperiled billfish species that the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) and the National Coalition for Marine Conservation (NCMC) began in 2008. Their joint effort to urge the United States to take stronger action to protect these valuable and magnificent fish has also raised awareness in fishing communities on the importance of recreational angling in the country’s – and the world’s – economies.

Rob Kramer, President of the IGFA, said: “Our congressional champions–especially Senator David Vitter, Senator Bill Nelson and Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL)–are absolute heroes to recreational anglers. In addition, the leadership and members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus have been a uniting and driving force toward enactment of this important legislation since day one. The Billfish Conservation Act will help turn the tide on rapidly declining stocks of sailfish, marlin and spearfish. This is great news for recreational anglers and for people working in tourism, sportfishing and marine businesses.”

According to Ken Hinman, President of the NCMC, “The U.S. already has the world’s strongest conservation measures in place for billfish, the lions and tigers of the sea. This legislation will help us seek similar measures internationally, where commercial overfishing has severely depleted populations of these magnificent ocean giants.”

The successful progression of the bill in the 112th Congress has also come with the help of several other recreational fishing organizations including the Center for Coastal Conservation, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Keep America Fishing and numerous other NGOs from the environmental community.

“The assistance of these groups and their members has been vital to the Billfish Conservation Act,” Kramer also said. “The voice of the sport fishing community has been loud in Washington, and we are thankful to the bill’s supporters for making it heard.”

Learn more about the Billfish Conservation Act.

International Game Fish Association
300 Gulf Stream Way
Dania Beach, FL 33004 USA
http://www.igfa.org/
hq@igfa.org| 954-927-2628
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