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Conservationist promotes catch-and-release shark fishing

With shark populations around the world continuing to spiral downward, the result of devastating commercial fishing techniques and an exotic taste for shark-fin soup, marine scientists such as Guy Harvey are working to give the animals a fighting chance for survival.

In his latest mission, Harvey, better known as a celebrated marine wildlife artist, has brought his cause into the epicenter of one of the nation’s oldest and largest shark fishing tournaments, which will be held June 15-19 in Ocean City, Md.

Thanks in part to Harvey’s efforts and a willingness to continue to adapt by the tournament founders and organizers, the Ocean City Shark Tournament’s cash and prize package payment in the catch and release division has increased to more than $15,000.

Last month, the second annual Guy Harvey Ultimate Shark Challenge, a catch-and-release-only tournament, was held on the west coast of Florida in Punta Gorda. The tournament — created as a model for catch-and-release-only shark tournament formats — drew some 3,000 competitors and spectators and paid out more than $15,000 in cash and prizes.

The Ocean City Shark Tournament will continue to feature two divisions that allow anglers to bring sharks to the scales. However, knowing that competitors tend to follow the and pursue whatever division has the biggest payout, tournament directors are looking to make the release division cash and prizes so attractive that, by their own choosing, fishermen will voluntarily opt to release more sharks.

“We applaud the tournament founders and directors for their increased commitment to promote the catch and release of sharks in this summer’s tournament,” said Harvey. “Our goal is to minimize shark mortalities and maximize educational outreach about shark conservation.”

Harvey produced a documentary, “This is Your Ocean: Sharks,” co-staring fellow artist Wyland and photographer Jim Abernathy. The 44-minute documentary, which premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival to positive reviews, depicts sharks in their environment capturing both adventure and passion and providing the audience with face-to-face realism never shown before on film.

Click here to view the trailer of the documentary.

He has also recently released a public service message promoting shark-free marinas.