GUY HARVEY: ARTIST, ANGLER, BIOLOGIST AND CONSERVATIONIST
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.
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.
Charlie Levine grew up in a boating family and his first introduction to the water came at the age of three weeks old, swinging in a hammock on his father's 26-foot Chris-Craft, the Night Rider. After obtaining a degree in journalism, Charlie was fortunate to combine his career with his passion, and has worked for several boating and fishing publications, including a nine-year stint as Senior Editor of Marlin Magazine. In 2011, Charlie joined the team at BDoutdoors.com as the editorial director. Charlie has fished for both inshore and offshore species up and down the East Coast, the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico. He currently lives in Florida with his wife Diane and tries to get out on the water as much as he can.