Renowned marine wildlife artist and conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey and Sir Richard Branson are calling on individuals and corporations to step up and sponsor a shortfin mako shark that will be tagged and released off the coast of Isla Mujeres, Mexico later this month.

Dr. Harvey and his foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, along with the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University, have created an innovative race that allows businesses and/or individuals to sponsor sharks through the purchase of satellite tags. The tags enable researchers and the public to follow the sharks via the internet as they travel in near real-time.

The Great Shark Race consists of two “divisions” – the Shortfin Mako Shark Division and the Oceanic Whitetip Shark Division. Participants sponsor satellite tags ($5,000 each), which are affixed to either a mako shark or an oceanic whitetip shark in the Caribbean. Then the shark in each division that travels the furthest in six months wins a Guy Harvey original painting, a trip to the Florida Keys, and other prizes. Those interested in sponsoring a shark and entering the race can go to www.greatsharkrace.com.

The Great Shark Race is being organized by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation to put a spotlight on not only the incredible distances these sharks swim through the waters of many countries but also to draw attention to the effects of overfishing and to get people and corporations involved in the science and the data gathering process. Without reliable data fishery managers are hampered in their management and conservation efforts.

These two species of sharks are the focus of a long-term research effort by the Guy Harvey Research Institute based at Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center. Both species have been extensively overfished worldwide with the mako listed by the IUCN as vulnerable to extinction and the oceanic whitetip as critically endangered in the Atlantic.

Sir Richard Branson is pushing to have all Caribbean nations provide legislated protection for sharks within the next five years as part of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative. So far the Bahamas, Honduras, the BVI and the Cayman Islands have such legislation in place.

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