The GHRI is a scientific research organization based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, at the Halmos College of Arts and Sciences (HCAS) of Nova Southeastern University, minutes from coral reefs and popular fishing grounds. GHRI was established in 1999 as a collaboration between the renowned marine artist Dr. Guy Harvey and NSU's HCAS to assume a leadership role in providing the scientific information necessary to understand and save the world's fish resources and biodiversity from drastic, ongoing declines. GHRI is one of only a handful of private organizations dedicated exclusively to expanding the scientific knowledge base needed for effective conservation of fish populations and maintenance of fish biodiversity.
The world's marine and freshwater fish resources and diversity are experiencing an unprecedented assault from over-exploitation, pollution and habitat loss associated with explosive growth in human populations. This situation is a cause of great international concern, as fish resources are an indispensable and major part of both the food supply and the economies of most nations. For example, the value of the international trade in fishery products in 1996 amounted to approximately $50 billion. Commercial landings by US fishing activities in 1995 were estimated at close to 10 billion pounds valued at over $4 billion. In 1997, 17 million recreational anglers in the US caught nearly 366 million finfish over an estimated 68 million marine fishing trips, spending more than $9 billion in the process. In addition to direct economic impacts, fishing activities also provide enormous indirect benefits. These include economic and employment benefits from the diverse associated goods and services necessary, including boat, tackle, engine, electronic, navigation and other equipment manufacture and maintenance, marinas and affiliated retail stores.
Perhaps not as obvious as the monetary issues are those issues involving quality-of-life, ecology, and ethics. Recreational fishing is the preferred leisure pastime for millions of people, and is intimately tied to their quality of life. For people who do not participate in fishing nor consume seafood, the environmental concerns are just as real. Despite a total ban on their catch, some depleted fish stocks may never recover, often resulting in disruptions of entire ecosystems. Furthermore, there is the issue of ethics. As undisputed stewards of this planet's health, it falls to us as world citizens to ensure maintenance of our magnificent aquatic ecosystems and their biota in perpetuity for future generations.
Despite the importance of fish resources to national economies and to the ecological health of our planet's waters, over-fishing, inadequate management and the degradation of essential habitat have pushed many of the world's major fish resources to all-time lows. Examples of critically depleted fish populations include grouper, blue-fin tuna, swordfish, marlins, various sharks, salmon, hake, cod and haddock. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that, of the world's fish stocks whose status is known, nearly 70 percent are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. Ironically, expanding awareness of the health benefits of fish consumption has led to a dramatic demand for fish products. Consumers are increasingly impacted by the global depletion in fish stocks, experiencing reduced catches, ever-increasing restrictions on fishing activities and constantly increasing seafood prices. There is now a universally recognized and urgent need to develop and implement effective measures for the conservation and enhancement of fish resources worldwide. The availability of high quality scientific information is critical to these efforts. The GHRI plays an important role in this endeavor.