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The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown provided opportunities of productivity. For some, it was seeing how many wine bottles they could empty. For others, it was converting their creativity into new opportunities. Renaissance man Dr. Guy Harvey chose the latter.
Guy Harvey’s Connection to Florida
Harvey was born in Germany and grew up in Jamaica. He earned an education in Scotland and the West Indies and calls the Cayman Islands home. During International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST, the world’s largest sportfishing tradeshow) in July, I sat down with the angler, artist, businessman, conservationist, diver, explorer, family man, and scientist. We discussed discussed Florida, family, and some projects he accomplished during the pandemic.
The artist’s connections with Florida run deep. He debuted his artwork during the 1986 Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show and soon after, introduced the popular Guy Harvey T-shirt to the world. His foundation partnered with SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment and launched the Mako rollercoaster at SeaWorld Orlando in 2106. He was named Honorary Chancellor at Florida Southern College in 2018 and inducted into the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame in 2019 for swimming.
My first question was a tough one and one a friend suggested I ask. When will pockets return to the Guy Harvey T-shirts?
“They’re back already,” he told me, “Oh yeah, because I’m a pocket guy and we came out with some of these colored shirts that I love, we call them wovens, and they were pocketless and I blew a fuse. I said I’ll wear these, but you know with reluctance because I have to have a place for glasses, pens and all that stuff…I’m very much a pocket guy. So yeah, they’re back.”
Now that the most-pressing question was answered, it was time to learn more about Harvey and what he accomplished during the lockdown of the COVID pandemic.
When asked what he loves about Florida, the marine biologist replied, “Florida has about 1,300 miles of coastline. That’s one big reason, and all kinds of different aquatic and terrestrial habitats.”
He cited Florida’s diverse habitats. From the rolling hills of North Florida to the sawgrass and seagrass of the Florida Keys and the Everglades and Florida’s savannas inland.
“It’s a very beautiful state and not only can we enjoy the amazing beauty that it has, but we must also respect nature because the beauty of Florida is the biggest reason why it is such a successful state from a tourism perspective,” he told me.
Conserving Florida: What Visitors & Residents Can Do
Pre-COVID, Florida welcomed more than 100 million visitors annually. Although increased visitation pumps revenue into the state’s economy, that many people can be taxing on the environment. Harvey agreed there are increasingly more users of the environment and “more reason to be respectful.”
When asked what visitors and residents can do to minimize a negative impact on Florida’s ecosystems, Harvey stated it depends on what they are doing.
If fishing or diving, he recommends knowing the rules about fishing. This includes knowing the no fish zones, the closed seasons, slot sizes, boating safety, and not drinking and boating. In sum, “All the commonsense stuff that normally applies to people on land, you should do on the water.”
The scientist added when out on the water, whether fishing or diving, everyone should bring back any trash, including fishing line. Visitors and residents should enjoy Florida with the same respect, but there’s a higher expectation that those who live here should already be educated about enjoying the state responsibly.
He recommends the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website, myfwc.com, as a comprehensive resource. FWC’s rules and regulations are “made for a good reason and so they’re based on science…they’re not just pulled out of the air and thrown out to the public to absorb.,” Harvey said.
“And of course, if you really want to be a bit more thoughtful and a bit more active in conserving the environment, you obviously learn more about it. The fish you want to fish for. The animals you dive with,” he said.
He suggests joining a local or regional environmental or conservation group dedicated to your interest like fishing or birdwatching. According to Harvey, “your small contributions do help.”
Through participating in these organizations, learn as much as you can and “share your knowledge with your friends and your family.”
Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation: It’s a Family Affair
The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) is one of those organizations and was founded in 2008. It conducts scientific research and hosts marine-focused education courses and certifications. Its goal is ensuring a healthy ocean for future generations.
Less than a decade earlier, the Guy Harvey Research Institute was established in 1999 at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale. It’s a global leader in billfish and shark conservation research. Proceeds from the sales of Harvey’s artwork and merchandise contribute to the research and marine science curriculum. Two other fundraising efforts include the Florida “Protect Our Oceans” specialty license plate. The other is the Florida Lottery which promoted the Guy Harvey $500,000 Florida Cash Scratch-Off Game over the summer.
Harvey is passionate about family and both children are involved with the Guy Harvey brand. His daughter Jessica, 31, is the voice of the brand and “playing a very active role.”
Specifically, she’s assisting with the marine science education programs. These are distributed through Discovery Education (virtual education), Florida Virtual School, Florida’s Department of Education and Ocean First Education.
Harvey, who currently serves as co-chair of GHOF, praised his daughter’s efforts.
“She’s doing a wonderful job” and she’s “taking the foundation by the scruff of the neck.” Although he’ll be stepping down soon “to make way for younger, more energetic people,” he plans to “stay on in a scientific advisory capacity.”
His son Alex, 28, oversees marketing, social media, and licenses with companies like apparel, drinkware, and knives.
Productivity During the COVID Pandemic
The artist was productive during the pandemic lockdown. During the first 100 days, he worked on his 340-page book called “Guy Harvey’s Underwater World.” Readers will travel from Alaska to the Yucatan both on and in the water through the explorer’s eyes. The book features signature marine-inspired artwork, photographs and stories from his global expeditions.
Following the book’s June 2021 release, he conducted a book tour. At the beginning of the pandemic, his children presented him with the concept of airing Facebook live videos. Intrigued, he broadcast live art classes and painted small and large-scale scenes which took several weeks. It is something he would never “invest that much time…but we couldn’t leave. I didn’t leave for 15 months so you can imagine I did several paintings.”
During these live sessions, he demonstrated different artistic techniques while creating nature-inspired art. Often, he included personal experiences with the subject-matter, such as when he dove with billfishes in the early 1990s. The videos have amassed tens of thousands of views and feedback received during his book tour have been positive.
These Facebook live videos have morphed into a marine science education initiative with plans to continue beyond the pandemic. Educational content from those videos will be turned into vignettes for children and teachers. They’ll be accessible through Discovery Education and Florida Virtual School.
“And so, that is what’s next. We want to see that really grow and be embraced by the entire state before we export it to other states and even into the Caribbean and Central America,” the marine scientist said.
Connect with Guy Harvey
Guy Harvey – art, merchandise
Guy Harvey Magazine
Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation
Guy Harvey Outpost- there are Guy Harvey branded accommodations, including an RV resort, in Florida (and they’re pet-friendly, too!)