Dr. Guy Harvey—best known throughout the world as a celebrated and award-winning marine wildlife artist— continues to encourage anglers to practice catch and release fishing when participating in shark tournaments.
For the second straight year, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) is sponsoring the Catch and Release Division it helped develop for one of the nation’s oldest and largest shark tournaments—the annual Ocean City Shark Tournament, which is getting underway this week.
“We applaud the tournament founders and directors for their increased commitment to promote the catch and release of sharks in this tournament,” said Dr. Harvey, who was the inspiration behind the creation of The Ultimate Shark Challenge, a catch and release only shark tournament now held annually on the west coast of Florida. “Our goal is to minimize shark mortalities and maximize educational outreach about conservation.”
With shark populations around the world continuing to decline as the result of devastating commercial fishing techniques and an exotic taste for ‘shark-fin soup’, marine scientists and conservation organizations are working hard to conserve these ecologically vital animals.
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 apex predators could cause irreversible damage to the ocean’s ecosystem and result in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in the tourist trade,” said Dr. Harvey.
In 2010, Dr. Harvey successfully 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.
The Ocean City Shark Tournament will continue to host two divisions that allow anglers to bring sharks to the scales. However, knowing that competitors tend to pursue whatever division has the biggest payout, the GHOF is looking to make the release division cash and prizes so attractive that, by their own choosing, fishermen will voluntarily opt to release more sharks. In 30 years, the Ocean City Shark Tournament has evolved from a small “club” event to one of the largest shark tournaments along the east coast.