You now have five successful restaurants. What are the future plans?
The Island Grill has the potential to open two new facilities per year in the coastal margins of the continental U.S. The additional store and galleries offer customers a breadth of GH merchandise they would not find in other independent stores or department stores that carry the brand.
You are an outspoken conservationist yet you have a wide range of seafood on the menu at the Island Grills. How do you reconcile Guy Harvey the conservationist with Guy Harvey the restaurateur?
Very easily and simply. The GHIGs do not serve any species of seafood that is considered overexploited, such as grouper, billfish, swordfish, shark, Chilean sea bass, etc. We notify patrons of my philosophy on the menu and with seafood guides that promote responsible consumption. I enjoy eating seafood, and enjoy cooking it myself. When I am out fishing and catch a nice wahoo, cero mackerel, tuna, or dolphin, it will be going in the boat. Everything else goes back in the water. I am a conservationist, not a preservationist.
Would you say that Guy Harvey is now a lifestyle rather than just a brand of merchandise, much like the Jimmy Buffett brand?
The GH brand is now synonymous with a casual, coastal lifestyle which includes all kinds of water sports activity, in addition to boating and fishing. Thanks for putting Jimmy in the same sentence but I have not gotten there yet.
I live in Florida and see at least one person wearing a GH T-shirt every day. When did you print your first run of T-shirts? How many T’s are sold each year now?
The T-shirts first appeared in 1987 and the brand has been growing ever since then. I don’t know how many are sold each year but it will be a large number.
In the early days, the market for your T-shirts was middleaged fishermen. Now, your merchandise is everywhere and your apparel, especially the T-shirts, has become a status symbol among high school and college students. How do you explain how your brand transcended its original demographic to include such a broad group of fans?
The art, colors, and styles are appealing to young people, many of whom fish. At the same time the product remains appealing to the hard core angler.
You released two new books, a fish guide book and panama paradise, about your favorite place to fish. Tell us about the books.
Fishes of the Open Ocean is my third book, done as a joint venture with Australian fish biologist Dr. Julian Pepperell as author and I did all the illustrations, 170 of them. The 266-page book is the first guide and authoritative reference to all the fish that spend some of or all of their lives in the epi-pelagic zone of the open ocean. The largest, swiftest, highest-leaping, fastest-growing, and most migratory fish on the planet all live in the open ocean. Beautifully adapted to their world, they range from tiny fish, to plankton straining whale sharks, to streamlined predators such as wahoo, tuna, marlin, and sailfish. Divers, anglers, mariners, and anyone with an interest in the ocean will find this book an essential reference. Panama Paradise is 334 pages. It is based on the history of the world’s most famous deep sea fishing lodge, and includes a section on the pioneers of sport fishing in the eastern Pacific. Why? Because many innovations of fishing tackle and techniques for big game fish used today were born in these productive waters. The lodge is unique in its location, aesthetic appeal, services, facilities, and fishing productivity. More IGFA records have come from this one location than anywhere else on the planet. The book documents the oceanography, ecology, and productivity of this area, which has become the dream destination of any angler. The author features all the major species both offshore and inshore, many of which are the icons of our sport. The book has over 600 photographs; most were taken by the author as well as 50 art images inspired by my three dozen visits to this unique place since 1991. This collection of art and action photography is the finest ever collated in one book based on angling.
I have a fanatical fishing friend who scuba dives just so he can see which fish he wants to catch. Then he gets back in the boat and fishes. Did you take up diving to do the same thing, only as a means to study the subjects of your art?
I have been diving for 36 years, and have logged over 5,500 dives in that time. At the University of West Indies (UWI) I started a dive programme for students, most of whom were taking my undergrad marine biology courses. We had two marine laboratories in UWI and so diving was an integral part of my research work. Diving is now a tool for me to study fish in their own habitat for my art, whether it’s along a beautiful coral drop off, or 50 miles out in the open ocean. Photography has been the reason to dive for the last 20 years.
You have a foundation, a research institute, a TV show, restaurants, apparel, art galleries, and now a magazine. What’s next for GH? What’s next? Keep going. It’s working. I enjoy painting and all the processes that lead to the creation of new work, new styles, and new media. Inspiration is driven by personal experiences, fishing, and diving. I will endeavor to make the brand more successful, and maintain my support of research, collaborate with other artists and research institutions, produce more TV documentaries, and broadcast the need for more conservation of marine ecosystems. There are a few locations in the Indian and Pacific Ocean I would like to visit and dive. And I’m working on two more books.