In his mission to inspire scientific research and education while encouraging conservation and best management practices for sustainable marine environments, Dr. Guy Harvey continues to work closely with fishing tournament organizers to support and effect long lasting cultural changes.
As a result, creators of the upcoming Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge (USC) Tournament and Festival and organizers of the World¹s Richest Tarpon Tournament (WRTT) have announced plans to strengthen and share their commitment to conservation by cross-promoting their common messages. The Ultimate Shark Challenge Tournament and Festival takes place in Punta Gorda¹s downtown waterfront at Laishley Park May 4th 6th followed by the World¹s Richest Tarpon Tournament in Boca Grande May 17th and 18th and the Downtown Tarpon Festival May 19th and 20th.
Both all-release tournaments feature exciting and innovative high-stakes competitions that also place an emphasis on best practices when it comes to the post-release welfare of their respective target species‹sharks and tarpon.
The main attractions at both events are the fishing tournaments, but each will also host festivals that are free to the public and offer family-friendly fun, excitement, entertainment and education.
While their marquis species are indeed very different, event organizers are quick to point out that, "Sharks and tarpon have been coexisting here for millions of years and that their symbiotic relationship is a matter of mutual benefit to a healthy marine and coastal environment. In many ways, that relationship is a great metaphor for why we¹re collaborating with our events."
"Our All-Release, No-Weigh, No-Kill tournaments are an alternative whose time has come," said Lew Hastings, executive director of the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce and Tournament Director of WRTT. "Bringing families together in sport and education strengthens not only our estuaries and fisheries, but enriches our community as a whole."
USC Creators, Sean & Brooks Paxton add that, "We're extremely fortunate to have this uniquely diverse environmental playground right here in our backyard. The area offers so many choices for not only boaters and recreational anglers, but also anyone interested in an endless list of eco and adventure-based activities on land and sea."
The USC tournament‹created as a model for catch and release only shark tournament formats‹drew some 3,000 competitors and spectators last year and paid out over $15,000 in cash and prizes. This year¹s event will feature an outdoor showing of "This Is Your Ocean: Sharks", a documentary created by Dr. Harvey, fellow marine artist Wyland and shark dive operator Jim Abernethy, about sharks in the Bahamas.
"We applaud the tournament founders and directors for their increased commitment to promote the catch and release of sharks and tarpon in this summer¹s tournaments," said Dr. Harvey. "Our goal is to minimize shark and tarpon mortalities and maximize educational outreach about conservation."
Following an extremely successful launch of Guy Harvey's new Armed Forces Collection, a portion of the proceeds from this year¹s USC will benefit charitable organizations dedicated to supporting America¹s military and their families. There will also be two teams of veterans fishing in this event.
Dr. Harvey, founder of the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University and the internationally regarded Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF), in recent years has joined the growing ranks of individuals and organizations calling for strict regulations to ban the commercial fishing of sharks in the quest to supply the world¹s insatiable taste for shark fin soup, an expensive delicacy.
Scientists with the International Union for Conservation of Nature have estimated that 30 percent of shark and ray species around the world are threatened or near threatened with extinction. The loss of these animals could cause irreversible damage to the ocean¹s ecosystem and result in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in the tourist trade.
Last July, Dr. Harvey, who holds a PhD in fisheries science and biology, helped lead an international effort spearheaded by the Bahamas National Trust to convince the Government of the Bahamas to prohibit all commercial shark fishing in its more than 240,000 square miles of territorial waters.