New Tagging Research Reveals Remarkable Mako Shark Round-Trip Journey in High Resolution

October 30, 2012

DAVIE, FL— OCTOBER 29, 2012— A satellite reporting tagging device known as a SPOT tag, attached to a shortfin mako shark dubbed “Carol” in New Zealand five months ago, is providing scientists with remarkable and previously unknown details of the timing and long-distance migratory movements of this species.

The Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) at Nova Southeastern University is collaborating with the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) on the tagging experiment with Carol the shortfin mako shark.

The SPOT tag is revealing that Carol is spending a lot of time at the ocean’s surface, reporting her location to the satellite several times daily.

“The unexpectedly frequent daily detections are providing us with a really high resolution view of the migration of this animal,” said GHRI Director Dr. Mahmood Shivji. “We’ve found that Carol has traveled over 5,700 miles in five months, averaging 60 miles per day during some parts of her migration—and this is just a juvenile shark!”

CLICK HERE to see an interactive map of Carol’s travels.

“Conventional identification tags tell us little about the timing of mako shark movements, the route that they take or distance traveled,” said Dr. Malcolm Francis, who is leading the NIWA effort on this study.  “The SPOT tag, revealing Carol’s detailed travels from New Zealand to Fiji and back, shows theses sharks have an amazing internal navigation system that keeps them on course over long journeys.”

Given the high fishing pressure on makos for their fins and meat, this species is showing declining population trends in parts of its range, which has resulted in the species being listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Based on the amazing results from this initial trial, the GHRI and NIWA are expanding their mako migration study off New Zealand starting in January 2013, according to Dr. Shivji.  The GHRI and Dr. Guy Harvey are also working with Captain Anthony Mendillo of Keen M International to compare the migratory patterns of mako sharks in the Atlantic by tagging them off the coast of Isla Mujeres, Mexico.


Guy Harvey Launches Petition Drive to Protect Cayman Stingrays

October 15, 2012

Enactment of the National Conservation Law Postponed Last 10 Years

THE CAYMAN ISLANDS—OCTOBER 15, 2012— Marine wildlife artist and conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey is leading a petition drive calling on the government of the Cayman Islands to immediately put the National Conservation Law into effect, ensuring the safety and protection of all stingrays in the country’s territorial waters.

Currently, stingrays are only protected in the country’s designated Wildlife Interaction Zones, Stingray City and the Sandbar, two of the island’s best known tourist attractions.  Dr. Harvey said that outside of the zones there is no protection for stingrays and they can be removed and/or caught and eaten by local residents.

The National Conservation Act would close this loophole.

Recently four stingrays tagged for study were found at a local Dolphin Discovery facility and returned after a national outcry. However, six other untagged stingrays remain in captivity at the dolphinarium.

“The well-being of stingrays affects every single person in the Cayman Islands,” said Dr. Harvey, who pointed out that half a million visitors per year from around the world come to swim and interact with these charismatic animals.  “By signing this petition you are speaking out against the unconscionable acts of harming stingrays, especially when taking them out of their natural habitat.”

Time is critical, according to Dr. Harvey, a marine biologist, who calls The Cayman Islands home.

The goal is to reach 10,000 signatures.

“Maintaining the ecological health of these stingray populations for the long-term will require management and conservation programs based on a thorough knowledge of the biology of these animals,” said Dr. Harvey who initiated research work on the Cayman Island’s southern stingray (Dasyatis americana) population in 2012.

Dr. Harvey said the situation at the Sandbar in North Sound is unique, with a large number of wild rays that are not fenced or contained and 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. Each animal may generate USD 500,000 in revenue per year and in its lifetime, assuming they live more than 20 years, may generate USD 10,000,000 in a lifetime.

From 2010, tour operators and casual observations indicated a sudden decline in the number of rays at the Sandbar. The Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) based at Nova Southeastern University conducted a census in January 2012 and sampled only 61rays 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.

This summer GHRI returned with the support of the Georgia Aquarium veterinary staff.  Over three days the team sampled 57 rays (only 5 males) at the Sandbar (down from 61 in January) with assistance from Department of Environment 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.

“These iconic animals have given so much to benefit the Cayman Islands that its time the Government returned the favor by immediately approving the National Conservation Law,” said Dr. Harvey.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW & SIGN THE PETITION!


Guy Harvey Film, Research Inspires North Vancouver Mayor to Support Shark Fin Ban

October 15, 2012

NOTE: The following article appears courtesy of Huffington Post Canada.

A wave of bylaws banning the possession, trade, sale and distribution of shark fin products has swept across the province of British Columbia this past month. North Vancouver joined Port Moody and Coquitlam in introducing a ban on shark fin soup in restaurants, a popular Asian dish that supports a vast industry that is decimating shark populations worldwide and threatens many species with extinction.

Interestingly, Artists for Conservation played an important role in this policy change. Last year the mayor of the city of North Vancouver, Darrell Mussatto, attended the first annual Artists for Conservation Festival on Grouse Mountain. It was there where he first met legendary marine artist Dr. Guy Harvey, a leading advocate for the shark-fin ban, and founder of the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI).

Dr. Harvey’s documentary “This is Your Ocean: Sharks” premiered at the festival last November and Mayor Mussatto had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Harvey about his efforts to save sharks from extinction through his film. That encounter inspired him to support a shark fin ban in his city last month.

Read the Full Article


Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Symposium Announced for September 14-15 in St. Pete Beach, FL

August 21, 2012

Health of Gulf Seafood, Fishery Analysis and Habitat Restoration on Agenda

ST. PETE BEACH, FL—AUGUST 20, 2012— Two years after the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil well was finally capped, the largest gathering of scientists, fishery experts and government officials are gathering in St. Pete Beach to share the findings of their research, and to offer direction for further study.

The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Symposium, on Sept. 14-15, is the first summit to bring together the various stakeholders in the Gulf’s fishery, an annual multi-billion-dollar industry for Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

The oil gusher and the clear environmental damage in 2010 captivated international attention and raised doubts about the safety of eating Gulf of Mexico seafood. It also raised concerns about short- and long-term damage to fish stocks.  Research to be presented at the symposium will begin to definitively address these issues.

The symposium will also present the results of research funded by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation‘s 2010 “Save Our Gulf” campaign, which raised $500,000 to fund gulf fisheries research related to the oil spill. It will bring together representatives from all sectors of the marine world – recreational and commercial fishermen, non-governmental and governmental agencies, politicians, fishing authorities and marine scientists – to explore vital issues facing the Gulf through presentations and panel discussions. More than 200 are expected to attend and participate.

The recommendations offered by the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Symposium will also involve requesting funding from the $20 billion trust established by BP to respond to claims from individuals, businesses and government entities.

Headliners appearing at the symposium are Dr. Bill Hogarth, director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography and a former Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at NOAA, and Dr. Guy Harvey, celebrated artist, fisheries scientist and conservationist. The symposium’s line-up includes Eric Schwaab, Acting Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management, Gil McRae, Director, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), Donald Kent, President of the Hubbs-Seaworld Institute, Dr. Bob Hueter from Mote Marine Laboratory, Dr. Mahmood Shivji, Director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University.

The ultimate mission of the symposium is to provide a platform where all stakeholder groups can share knowledge and move forward with a unified mission of a sustainable and healthy fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.

For a final agenda and listing of speakers and panelists, please go to www.gulffisheriessymposium.com.

The symposium will be held at the TradeWinds Islands Resort on St. Pete Beach.  The Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Symposium is sponsored by NOAA, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the University of South Florida, the Florida Institute of Oceanography, Mote Marine Laboratory, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and Guy Harvey Magazine.


BusinessInsider.com: Sharks Have Some Of The Coolest Superpowers In The Animal Kingdom

August 16, 2012

NOTE: BusinessInsider.com asked Dr. Mahmood Shivji, Director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute and world renowned shark expert, to explain why we are so intrigued with sharks. The answer – their awesome superpowers, of course!

BsuinessInsider.com: All this talk about Shark Week has us interested in these prehistoric destroyers, so we decided to see what exactly makes these killers so intriguing.

With some help from Professor Mahmood Shivji, Director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute and Save Our Seas Shark Center at Nova Southeastern University, we found out that sharks have some super abilities you would not be amiss at comparing to those of a comic book superhero.

From super speed to incredibly fast healing, the over 500 species of sharks truly deserve the fascination that we have for them.

However, Dr. Shivji points out that despite these superpowers and the perceived ferociousness of sharks, very few have attacked humans. On the contrary the fishing of sharks for their fins by humans has brought many species to the brink of extinction.

CLICK HERE to learn about the awesome superpowers of sharks!


GoFISHn.com: “Guy Harvey Fights Back Against Attacks Over Killing Fish”

August 10, 2012

NOTE: The following editorial was originally posted to the popular fishing blog, “GoFISHn.com“:

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past decade, you’ve probably heard of Guy Harvey. His paintings, tee-shirts and artwork representing our favorite marine species are almost unavoidable. Some people, though, it appears view him as a hypocrite, catching and killing the very species that provide the inspiration for his life’s work.

Harvey responded passionately to such accusations recently, defining himself as a passionate angler and conservationist both, which we all aspire to be. On his website, he definitively stated his position, and his passion:

“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.”

Would-be accusers of the marine artist might note that he has, over the years, contributed vast sums of money to conservation-based groups that work to preserve and protect our beloved sport. He has been a vocal supporter of shark conservation, in particular, and practicing catch-and-release while fishing for the ocean’s voracious predators. But, he came under some heat after his daughter caught a notable, record swordfish, and a picture surfaced of her next to the fish hanging from the docks.

There aren’t many recreational fishermen out there who haven’t kept a fish or two- Rick Bach


Bonefishing Blog Weighs in on Killing Sharks for Sport

August 9, 2012

NOTE: The following editorial was published on the blog “Bonefish on the Brain“: 

I get an email from Field and Stream and the subject includes “587 Pound NY Thresher Shark.”

I like Thresher Sharks. They look kind of cool with the extra long tail. There is even a Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project outfit.

I had a feeling I wouldn’t like what I would see, but I open the email anyway and this is what I saw…

I am not a fan of killing sharks just for the sake of killing sharks. In fact, I’m pretty firmly in the “don’t do that shit” camp. Sharks are a pretty key part of the ecosystem out there, top predators usually are, and taking them out of the system just so you can get this picture makes me a bit pissed.  Thresher sharks don’t kill people, although I did read about someone that may have been killed by the tail of one of these sharks as they were pulling it in a boat somewhere.  There was zero cause to kill the thing.

I think most fly fisherman would likely NOT have killed the beast, but the non-fly Field & Stream subscribers likely would and that is why they presented it front and center in the email. I hope more of the C&R ethic can make its way into the bait and kill crowd, but I don’t know how that will happen.

I applaud the Shark Free Marina Initiative effort for trying to get there.

These are American Bison skulls… killed for fun, driving the Bison to the brink of extinction.


An Open Letter from Guy Harvey

August 3, 2012

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.


Guy Harvey Research Institute, Georgia Aquarium Complete Annual Census at Stingray City

July 24, 2012

Jessica Harvey rounds up a stingray during the annual census study.

New census study shows sharp decline in number of rays at Stingray City

In mid-July, personnel from the Guy Harvey Research Institute once again collaborated with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment to conduct the annual census of the stingray population in Grand Cayman. This year, we were joined by three researchers from the Georgia Aquarium, who were on hand to assist with analyzing the overall health of the stingrays.

The situation at the Sandbar in North Sound is unique, with a large number of wild rays 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. On average, each animal can generate up to $500,000 in revenue per year, or $10,000,000 over the course of a 20 year life span!

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 their tail. During the initial count, 164 rays were tagged, weighed and measured at the Sandbar over two years. Since then, tag retention has remained near 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.  The same situation was experienced in a subsequent census conducted by the GHRI in 2005 and 2008. As expected, over time 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 fairly constant over this time.

The research team holds a large female ray as they prepare to draw a blood sample.

From 2010 tour operators and casual observations indicated a sudden decline in the number of rays at the Sandbar. In response to the reports, the GHRI conducted a census in January 2012 and sampled only 61rays 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 hard facts to support the eye witness accounts, the next logical step was to find out what was causing the decline in population.

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, fishing mortality (intentionally or by accident) is a consideration.  I say this because here is no national protection for stingrays – outside of the Wildlife Interactive Zones (WIZ) this species has no protection and can be removed and consumed by residents.

Another possibility for us to consider is the overall health of the rays, which is why GHRI enlisted the support of the Georgia Aquarium veterinary staff for this year’s census. The addition of the GA vets also allowed the research work to become 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) arrived in Grand Cayman 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 also 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 in this year’s sample is definitely cause for concern.

Team members – Front row: Guy Harvey, Nicole Boucha, Tonya Clauss. Back row: Lisa Hoopes, Dr. Brad Wetherbee, Alex Harvey, Jessica Harvey.

Each ray was caught by hand and transferred to the pool in the work boat where they were measured and tagged, 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 to 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 government of the Cayman Islands returned the favor by supporting ongoing research of the stingrays’ population status and well-being by releasing funds in the Environmental Protection Fund collected for this purpose.

More updates to come.

Fish responsibly, dive safely.

Guy Harvey PhD.


Massive Mako Surprises Diver and Blue Marlin During Guy Harvey Expedition in the Bahamas

July 18, 2012

You never know who will show up on a Guy Harvey Expedition! In this video, a massive 10 ft. long, 600 lb. mako breaks the underwater silence when it rockets past the camera as it stalks a blue marlin!