Sportsmen’s access must be safeguarded

“It will take all sportsmen working together to ensure conservation and access will continue to be linked for future generations.” Photo by Dusan Smetana.

“Guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish…”

That statement is more than just a tagline. It is the simplest way to describe the mission of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the efforts we undertake every day to unite hunters and anglers around habitat conservation and sportsmen’s access. Without quality habitat and abundant critters we love to pursue, our time in the field or on the water would be greatly diminished. And without sportsmen’s access to those quality places, our opportunities to enjoy those resources will be limited.

Conservation and sportsmen’s access are fundamentally linked. While our mission might be simple, it will take all sportsmen working together to ensure conservation and access will continue to be linked for future generations.

TRCP’s Whit Fosburgh and Bass Pro Shops’ Johnny Morris co-authored an op-ed on this important subject in anticipation of National Hunting and Fishing Day on September 27th.

You can read their article here in the Kansas City Star.

House votes against sportsmen and clean water

Image by Dusan Smetana.

In a bipartisan display of contempt for sportsmen’s priorities last week, 262 members of the U.S. House of Representatives – 227 Republicans and 35 Democrats – voted to kill a rulemaking process to clarify the reach of the Clean Water Act.

Never mind that everyone up to and including the Supreme Court agrees the rulemaking is needed. Never mind that the public comment process – where sportsmen and any member of the public can provide input on and improve the proposed rule – is ongoing. And never mind that 13 leading sportsmen’s organizations wrote to Congress as recently as Sept. 8, 2014, urging the House to oppose the bill.

The message sportsmen should take away from this vote is these congressmen believe it is better to perpetuate the confusion that hinders effective use of the Clean Water Act in this country than restore protections for our wetlands and headwater streams.

You may have thought that the appearance this summer of a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico covering an area the size of Connecticut – an annual occurrence that is becoming all too commonplace – or an algal bloom in Lake Erie that cut off drinking water to 400,000 Ohioans would have persuaded Congress to consider ways to improve water quality. But the House is going in the opposite direction, and it threatens to continue the acceleration we are seeing in wetland loss and risks to headwater streams.

Fortunately, the legislation approved by the House stands little chance of becoming law in the near term. But these types of attacks against hunter and angler priorities should give all sportsmen pause. If we don’t let Congress know where we stand, they may eventually succeed.

To see if your member of Congress supported this attack on fisheries and waterfowl habitat, click here. (A “Yes” vote represents a vote against sportsmen in this case.)

Then let your representatives in Congress know you support healthy fisheries and vibrant, working wetlands.

TRCP holds annual Western Media Summit Sept. 7-11, 2014 (Day Three)

More than 60 members of the media and other stakeholders concerned about pressing sportsmen conservation issues attended TRCP’s annual Western Media Summit in Great Falls, Montana. The 10th annual summit explored public lands issues and water topics, including federal water budgeting, the “waters of the U.S.” rulemaking, BLM backcountry conservation and the agency’s Planning 2.0 process, and ongoing efforts to conserve sage grouse and sagebrush ecosystems. The following are highlights from the event with short presentation recaps and photos.

Wednesday afternoon, September 10

Following a cold, misty morning of fishing on the Missouri River and hunting, Summit attendees gathered at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center for the final sessions and closing night dinner. The first session covered the Bureau of Land Management Conversation and Planning about public lands and featured Don Thomas, Traditional Bowhunter Magazine; Hal Herring, TRCP Field Representative; Ryan Callaghan, First Lite; and moderator Joel Webster, TRCP. The panel explored how sportsmen are working to conserve lands in and around the beautiful Missouri River Breaks. At the conclusion of the session, Ryan Callaghan revealed that more than 90 hunting- and fishing-dependent businesses signed a letter to the Bureau of Land Management urging the BLM to sustain public lands to hunt and fish, stand up for outdoor-related businesses, and support high-quality habitat.

The final session of the afternoon focused on sage grouse conservation and balancing multiple land uses. Panelists included Dr. Ed Arnett, TRCP; Tim Baker, Policy Advisor for Natural Resources, the Governor’s Office (MT); Ken Mayer, Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; and Dan Bailey, Pheasants Forever.

Before dinner was served at the Center, Jim Martin, TRCP Board Vice Chair, gave a rousing speech where he hammered home the theme that the job of the TRCP is to amplify the voice of the sportsman. “The Media Summit is the beating heart of TRCP,” he said. He also announced that he was stepping down from the Board.

Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in a sunglass fitting by Summit sponsor Costa, led by Peter Vandergrift, the sunglass manufacturer’s flying fishing community leader.

Don Thomas, Co-Editor, Bowhunter Magazine: “The Breaks can’t be managed in bits and pieces. There needs to conservation on the Breaks.”

Hal Herring, Montana Field Representative, TRCP, on the Cemetery Road Backcountry: “This is sage grouse core territory. The wealth of this piece of ground is astounding. This is a big wildlife-rich area.”

Ryan Callaghan, Marketing Manager, First Lite: “Public land hunting is absolutely paramount to our business.”

Joel Webster, Director of the TRCP Center for Western Lands: “You think no one cares about a piece of land until you try to do something with it.”

Dr. Ed Arnett, Director of the TRCP Center for Responsible Energy Development: “Sage grouse are a unique and iconic species in the West. This is a species that loves big open species. This is why we love the West.”

Tim Baker, Policy Advisor for Natural Resources, Governor’s Office (MT): “Sixty-four percent of sage grouse habitat is in private land and that is a particular problem.”

Dan Bailey, Montana Regional Representative, Pheasants Forever, on sage grouse habitat: “These are romantic ecosystems…where the deer and the antelope play.”

Sunglass fitting and reception

The Deseret News’ Amy Joi O’Donoghue poses with a pair of Costa sunglasses prior to the Summit’s closing night dinner.

TRCP holds annual Western Media Summit Sept. 7-11, 2014 (Day Two)

More than 60 members of the media and other stakeholders concerned about pressing sportsmen conservation issues attended TRCP’s annual Western Media Summit in Great Falls, Montana. The 10th annual summit explored public lands issues and water topics, including federal water budgeting, the “waters of the U.S.” rulemaking, BLM backcountry conservation and the agency’s Planning 2.0 process, and ongoing efforts to conserve sage grouse and sagebrush ecosystems. The following are highlights from the event with short presentation recaps and photos.

Tuesday, September 9 (morning)

With slate-gray skies occasionally spitting sleet and drizzle and temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, TRCP media summit attendees bundled up for a morning in the field to learn about water conservation efforts along the Sun River. They were bussed about 15 miles west ofGreat Falls to areas along the Sun River and adjacent lands. Trout Unlimited’s Laura Ziemer provided background about the Sun River Collaborative Conservation Project, a public-private partnership that upgrades local irrigation infrastructure. The project overcomes decades of acrimony among water users, conservation interests and government by creating common ground and mutual benefit.

Summit attendees were briefed on the issues by Allan Rollo, Sun River Watershed Group, and Rich Boyle, Fort Shaw Irrigation District. They visited locations including a U.S. Geological Survey gauge, which measured Sun River water flow and temperature. The data are constantly being transmitted to a mainframe computer. The final stop in the morning was a visit to the First People’s Buffalo Jump State Park where reporters and guests warmed up in the park headquarters and learn about the area, which features the largest bison cliff jump in North America.

Rich Boyle: “The soil here is fine … so fine that it can’t hold the ditch.”

Laura Ziemer addresses reporters and guests about the USGS gauge (in the shack on the left) which provides data on the Sun River (background): “The river here sometimes achieves lethal temperature level (for the fish) because of low flow.”


Alan Rollo: “There are arguments about water here where guns are pulled and sheriffs are called.”


(Images from the top of the Buffalo Jump)

(From left to right): TRCP’s Paul Wilkins and Whit Fosburgh and TRCP board member John Griffin climbed to the top of the buffalo jump.


TRCP Board member John Griffin takes a break after the 20-minute uphill hike to the buffalo jump. The park headquarters is a dot in the background.


Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 9

TRCP’s Jimmy Hague led the afternoon panels and discussions, which included the challenges and opportunities of Western in-flow conservation projects. EPA Region 8 Advisor Joan Card updated attendees on the status of the contentious federal rulemaking to define which waters receive protection under the Clean Water Act. And John Radtke, water sustainability program manager, Coca-Cola, spotlighted several sustainability programs undertaken by his company.

Patagonia’s Bill Klyn welcomed press and guests to the afternoon discussions. “Water is a huge issue,” he said. “It’s a valuable resource that’s disappearing.” Klyn also urged the audience to watch the DVD of the Patagonia-produced documentary “DamNation,” about obsolete dams in the U.S.


David Mannix, Mannix Brothers Ranch, urged cooperation among ranchers, farmers and conservationists: “If they start caring about cows and I start caring about fish, then you can begin to have a conversation. We need to respect each other’s values. That way we’ll avoid litigation and wars.”


David Mannix, Mannix Brothers Ranch, and fellow panelist Jennifer Schoonen, water steward, Blackfoot Challenge.

Laura Ziemer, Trout Unlimited: “Every river basin has its own culture.”

John Radtke, water sustainability program manager, Coca-Cola: “We want to show why water is important to a company like ours. We’re pledged to be a leader in water stewardship.”


Joan Card, Senior Advisor for Policy, EPA Region 8: “This is not a land grab. This is the Clean Water Act. That’s not to say the programs are not controversial. They impact activities on private lands.”


Tuesday evening, Sept. 9

Skeet shooting, dinner and speech by Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior, capped the end of a long day for TRCP media summit attendees. The setting was the Great Falls Trap & Skeet Club in Ulm, Montana. Summit sponsor, Remington Outdoor Company, provided the firearms and ammo for guests. Following a BBQ dinner and refreshments from the Bowser Brewing Co., Deputy Secretary Connor addressed the audience for 20 minutes, touching on numerous conservation topics.

Mike Connor: “Fish and wildlife don’t respect bureaucratic boundaries.”

Freelancer Kelsey Dayton (left) and Laura Lundquist, environmental reporter, the Bozeman Chronicle.

Peter Vandergrift, Costa.


Paul Wilkins, TRCP, with a Remington VersaMax 12-gauge shotgun.


Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO, TRCP, welcomes guests to the dinner at the Great Falls Trap & Skeet Club.

Learn what happened at Day Three of the 2014 Western Media Summit.

TRCP holds annual Western Media Summit Sept. 7-11, 2014

More than 60 members of the media and other stakeholders concerned about pressing sportsmen conservation issues attended TRCP’s annual Western Media Summit in Great Falls, Montana. The 10th annual summit explored public lands issues and water topics, including federal water budgeting, the “waters of the U.S.” rulemaking, BLM backcountry conservation and the agency’s Planning 2.0 process, and ongoing efforts to conserve sage grouse and sagebrush ecosystems. The following are highlights from the event with short presentation recaps and photos.

Monday, September 8 (Welcome Dinner)

Audience at 2014 TRCP Western Media Summit.

The opening night dinner followed a balmy day during which summit attendees toured the renowned elk hunting territory of Montana’s Missouri Breaks a small planes piloted by EcoFlight’s Bruce Gordon. That evening, TRCP CEO and President Whit Fosburgh welcomed guests at the dinner: “You guys – the writers, reporters and bloggers – are the first to get the word out on the issues we’re discussing here. We want you to leave the summit with plenty of stories that you can write about next week, next month or later this year.”

TRCP’s President and CEO Whit Fosburgh.

Dave Perkins, TRCP Board Chair, and Vice Chairman of The Orvis Co.: “Getting the word out is an important part of why we’re meeting this week.”

Dave Perkins, TRCP Board Chair/Orvis, Vice Chairman.

Laura Ziemer, Senior Counsel and Water Policy Advisor, Trout Unlimited’s Western Water Project: “The Sun River is a story of enduring conservation success. It’s with great pleasure that we have the opportunity to tell this story.” [ED: summit attendees will tour the site tomorrow]

Laura Ziemer, Trout Unlimited.

Jimmy Hague, TRCP’s Director of Center for Water Resources: “We need a unified voice in the sportsmen community to get our positions known (about water resources).”

Jimmy Hague, TRCP’s Director of Center for Water Resources

Joel Webster, Director of Center for Western Lands, TRCP: “Public lands are increasingly important for the sporting public.”

Joel Webster, TRCP’s Center for Western Lands Director

Leon Szeptycki, professor at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, was the evening’s guest speaker. He spoke extensively about the severe drought conditions in the west, especially California, and contrasted with other regional droughts over the last 150 years. He noted that 80 percent of water usage in California is for irrigation. “The basic problem is we’re experiencing a bad drought, and it’s likely it will increase in severity and duration,” he said. Szeptycki offered several solutions to managing droughts including water markets, conservation and desalinization.

Leon Szeptycki, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

Geoff Mullins, Chief Operating and Communications Officer: “We try to make the media summits interesting and fun.  We try to get everyone out in the field with a gun or a rod.”

Geoff Mullins, TRCP’s Chief Operating and Communications Officer

Many journalists brought their dogs to the TRCP event. Wyoming freelancer Chris Madson traveled to the summit with Flick, his Brittany spaniel, who made an appearance at the conclusion of the dinner. And Montanan Jack Ballard frolicked in the hotel lobby with Percy, his English setter.

Chris Madson


Jack Ballard

Many thanks to our sponsors for making this event a success: Remington Arms Company, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, Patagonia, Inc., Costa, The Orvis Co., Outdoor Industry Association, Simms Fishing Company, Trout Unlimited, Great Falls Tourism Business Improvement District, and Bowser Brewing Co.

 Learn what happened at Day Two of the 2014 Western Media Summit.

Congress, please help celebrate the LWCF’s 50th birthday in full fashion

Congress, we need your help to continue celebrating the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s 50th birthday.

The nation’s leading hunting and fishing conservation organizations are calling on you to fully fund the LWCF, a critical tool for conserving valuable fish and wildlife habitat and improving public access for hunting and fishing.

Please see our request in a report released last week, during the LWCF’s 50th anniversary. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund and America’s sportsmen and women: A 50-year legacy of increased access and improved habitat” features a series of state-based case studies that profile places and people across that country that have benefited as a result of LWCF funding.

Finding a cure for fire borrowing

Failure to prepare for wildfire season with adequate federal funding is akin to skipping a flu shot. The flu is unpleasant and sometimes dangerous, so why not stop by the pharmacy, pay $14.99, and significantly reduce the risk of catching the virus?

Much like the flu vaccine, cheap and effective programs can help mitigate the dangers and costs associated with wildfires. Unfortunately, the federal government has not invested enough into such programs as a result of a practice known as “fire borrowing.” As a result, forests across the United States are more prone to wildfire.

Photo courtesy of Bureau of Land Management.

Wildfire suppression costs are drawn from the U.S. Forest Service budget, the same pool of money that is responsible for funding wildfire prevention and forest health programs. But as wildfires grow in frequency and severity, so does the cost of putting them out. Congress, however, has steadfastly refused to increase funding for the Forest Service, forcing the agency to “borrow” funds from fire prevention accounts and forest health programs to cover suppression costs.

That’s a lot like saying, “I can’t afford the flu vaccine because I spent so much money on NyQuil.”

Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?

Healthy forests are far less susceptible to wildfires, but programs meant to reduce hazardous fuels buildup and treat unhealthy ecosystems are shortchanged by fire borrowing. Consequently, huge amounts of fire-prone materials are building up on national forests across the West.

Each year, wildfires are becoming more common and increasing in size and severity – and the costs of fighting them are also on the rise. In 1985, wildfire suppression cost about $240 million. In 2012, that number increased to $1.7 billion. While our warming climate, drought and increased development along fire-prone areas contribute to increased wildfire frequency and cost, a major factor is Congress’ refusal to adapt to the growing threat. By taking needed dollars from forestry management and fire prevention programs, appropriators are not investing enough in proven, and much less costly, wildfire “vaccines.”

Click on image for full infographic.

But a sensible solution seems to be emerging at last. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (H.R.3992 in the House and S.1875 in the Senate) was introduced to Congress earlier this year. This bill would enable America’s most catastrophic wildfires to be classified as natural disasters, enabling severe wildfire suppression funds to be drawn from federal emergency accounts – and ending the practice of “fire borrowing” once and for all.

By making commonsense changes to the source of suppression funding, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would restore hundreds of millions of dollars to programs designed for wildfire prevention and forest health. This would result in fewer catastrophic wildfires, healthier forests and wildlife habitat, and it would save billions of federal dollars in the long term.

Fire Management Needs Funds

Oregon is known for vast landscapes of sagebrush steppe and lush forest. These wide-open countries provide both access and important habitat for numerous species of big game, birds and trout and, consequently, offers outstanding public lands hunting.

These open spaces are at risk with continued spread of noxious weeds that contribute to frequent fire events. Invasive weeds such as cheatgrass a Eurasian exotic, dry quickly, are highly flammable and degrade habitat. This year, dry weather, lightning and fuel sources like cheatgrass has currently resulted in nearly 600, 00 acres burning across Oregon’s landscapes, the cost to fight fires is great for agencies and taxpayers. 2013 was the second most expensive wildfire year on record for the state, with an estimated $183 million going to fighting Oregon’s wildfires.

Courtesy of OR Dept. of Transportation/Kevin Halesworth

According to Oregon Forest Resource Institute; fire suppression, while beneficial in the short term, can have long-term negative effects. The exclusion of natural wildfire can, result in dense, overstocked forests with an overabundance of understory that would normally be removed by natural fires. The cost of thinning one acre of overstocked forestland is $500 while the cost of fighting a fire on that same acre of forestland is $5,000. Also, vital habitat projects are delayed because of lack of funding such as a culvert project in the Siuslaw National Forest. The project cost was $192,000 needed to replace two undersized and failing culverts but deferred to cover suppression cost.

A bipartisan measure sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden and Mike Crapo and cosponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley called for a vote on the Wildfire Disaster Funding that would shift excess fire suppression costs away from the Forest Service budget. Not only would this restore appropriated dollars to programs vital to proper forestry management and wildlife conservation, it would reinvest needed dollars into wildfire prevention programs which would mitigate the risk of these “catastrophic” wildfires.

With persistent droughts, dry forest conditions the West is experiencing a harsh fire season. Currently there are active fires burning in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and California. The administration already estimates that this year’s funding for firefighting will fall short of the costs. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act can help shift those cost. Contact your senators today and ask them to support the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act.

Water Conservation Funding is Going Down. But It Could Be Worse.

There’s an old saying that “water flows uphill towards money.” This means that those with the most money usually end up getting the water, even if it means pumping water uphill and over mountain ranges to do it. The saying reflects a frustration many people feel when they lose out to more well-heeled water users, especially in times of drought.

Now, based on an initial review of data in the Sportsmen’s Water Budget, there might be a new corollary that also is especially frustrating in this current drought: “Money for water is going downhill.”

In case you missed the initial launch and description, the “Sportsmen’s Water Budget” tracks federal programs that impact water resources conservation[1] at seven federal agencies: the Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Reclamation, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Each agency has programs that can enhance freshwater resources. They vary widely in goals, focus and size. For example, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund at EPA capitalizes state revolving loans that finance public wastewater system infrastructure improvements. It receives between $1.5 billion and $2 billion each year but only a small portion of that goes to enhancing the freshwater resources hunters and anglers enjoy.

At another end of the spectrum, the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund at FWS is the most important funding mechanism for the conservation of waterfowl habitat across North America. It receives about $35 million each year – nearly 60 times smaller than the CWSRF – but nearly all of that money goes to improving the health and integrity of wetlands.

Such wide discrepancies between programs included in the Sportsmen’s Water Budget means that a top-level analysis of water conservation funding will gloss over important distinctions between agencies and programs.[2] Nevertheless, the aggregate federal investment in water conservation programs can give us a sense of the relative priority water conservation has in federal budget decisions.

Total water conservation spending at seven federal agencies from fiscal year 2010 (FY10) to fiscal year 2014 (FY14) in real dollars.

Here, I look at the baseline years 2010-2014 where we have nearly final spending data, and only consider the total funding for all programs over the five-year period.

Over this period, total water conservation spending has averaged about $6.6 billion per year, with a high of $7.0 billion (2011) and a low of $6.3 billion (2013). Year-to-year fluctuations are dramatic – up 5 percent one year then down 6.5 percent the next – but over the whole period funding is down 1 percent, or $66 million.

A decrease in spending over the last five years isn’t surprising. This follows the trend in overall federal spending. After the economic collapse of 2008-09, Congress instituted austere budget restrictions designed to reel in deficits. Fortunately, the drop in water conservation spending is less severe than the corresponding drop in overall spending. According to data from the Office of Management and Budget, non-defense discretionary spending, the broad budget category to which water conservation belongs, has gone down 5 percent over the same time period (2010-2014). That water conservation spending hasn’t suffered as much indicates that these programs have been a relative priority for lawmakers determined to cut spending.

Figure 2. Total water conservation spending at seven federal agencies from fiscal year 2010 (FY10) to fiscal year 2014 (FY14) in constant 2010 dollars.

A one percent drop in water conservation spending may not sound that bad but the picture gets bleaker after adjusting for inflation. In constant 2010 dollars, water conservation funding in 2014 is roughly $6.0 billion, down 9 percent from 2010. Again, this compares favorably to overall non-defense discretionary spending, which has declined 13 percent over the last five years after adjusting for inflation. Nevertheless, at a time of historic drought across the West, this means we have lost $625 million in purchasing power over five years for efforts to make the most out of every drop of water we have. That kind of decline could be sowing the seeds of trouble as climate change and population growth exacerbate current water supply problems.

There is reason to be hopeful about the future. Several years of slow but steady economic recovery are finally easing some of the fiscal constraints of the Great Recession; for example, water conservation spending was up 5 percent in 2014 over the previous year. And after seemingly endless omnibus spending bills, continuing resolutions and other budgetary standoffs that culminated in a shutdown of the federal government, Congress was able to complete a budget and appropriations process for fiscal year 2014. However, this year’s election is complicating the chances for a repeat for fiscal year 2015.


[1] In this context, water conservation refers to federal programs that have improvement of freshwater aquatic habitat, including aquatic species restoration, as a primary goal, or the ability to increase flows or wetland acres. There are other important federal actions that influence water conservation, such as research or data collection, but the “Sportsmen’s Water Budget” focuses on programs that have the ability to directly and immediately enhance freshwater resources.

[2] For example, while 60 percent of water conservation programs had their budgets cut by an average of $43 million from 2010-2014, one program – the Conservation Stewardship Program at NRCS – had its budget increase $689 million over the same period, masking significant decreases in CWSRF and EPA’s geographic programs like Great Lakes Restoration.

Spearheading shark conservation

Guy Harvey with mako shark

Guy Harvey swims with a mako shark. Photo courtesy of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.

As an artist, scientist and fisherman, Guy Harvey is combining his three loves these days to help sharks.

One of the country’s most popular wildlife artists, Harvey’s work appears on everything from murals and posters to T-shirts and towels. With a doctorate in marine zoology, Harvey and his Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation have taken on the challenge of protecting sharks by tagging them with transmitters so scientists can track their travels.

“It’s about being responsible and taking the lead and trying to make a difference,” Harvey said. “[Sharks] have been so extensively killed, mainly through commercial long-lining, that their populations have been significantly reduced. They’re slow-growing, long-lived animals.”

Harvey said some states, like Florida, and some countries, such as the Bahamas, have protected sharks by reducing or prohibiting commercial fishing for them. He hopes the data provided by the tags will lead to restrictions on the slaughter of sharks in other parts of the world.

“You’ve got to get the research,” said Harvey during a daytime swordfishing trip out of Islamorada in the Florida Keys. (He and three other anglers each caught and released a swordfish on Catch 22 with Capt. Scott Stanczyk.) “You have to approach management not on a country-by-country basis but on a regional basis.”

Harvey, who lives in the Cayman Islands and who grew up offshore fishing in Jamaica, has helped catch and then tag sharks such as makos and tigers. He was part of a tagging effort for oceanic whitetip sharks in conjunction with a dolphin tournament in Grand Cayman. A $1,500 reward was offered to the first couple of tournament anglers who caught a shark and held it for tagging. Six sharks were held and tagged, and Harvey and his crew caught and tagged four others.

“What was cool was the guys who caught the first two sharks gave the money back so we could buy more tags,” Harvey said. “All of a sudden, we turned around the Caymanians’ attitude toward sharks. Usually they kill sharks and use them for bait.”

The shark tags cost $1,800 each, plus the cost of satellite time to retrieve the data from them. The tags are bolted to a shark’s dorsal fin, then the shark is released. Harvey jumps in the water to swim with the shark until it takes off. The experiences often result in new paintings of sharks.

Guy Harvey swordfishing

Guy Harvey fights a swordfish. Photo by Steve Waters.

“He loves it. It’s a combination of fishing, diving and his science background,” said Dr. Mahmood Shivji, the director of Nova Southeastern University’s Guy Harvey Research Institute and Save Our Seas Shark Research Center in Hollywood, Fla. The university has a website – – that displays the sharks’ travels. Some of the findings have been enlightening.

“Some are staying around and some are moving,” Harvey said, adding that one shark, a mako nicknamed Bad Guy, traveled from Mexico to Grand Cayman to Jamaica, through the Windward Passage and up the eastern coast of the United States to Maryland, where he joined other makos that were tagged in that area.

Shivji said that Harvey’s efforts have had an impact on shark research. Most scientists are funded through government grants, which have greatly declined. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, which receives private donations as well as proceeds from sales of Harvey goods and lottery tickets bearing his artwork, has helped keep the shark research going.

Shivji added that the importance of the research gets extra attention because of Harvey’s “celebrity status.” And as Harvey said, once you have the research, it becomes easier to make the case for conservation-minded countries to persuade countries that “plunder” shark populations to change their ways.