SeaWorld’s Mako coaster to feature art, exhibits by Guy Harvey

When guests queue for SeaWorld’s Mako roller coaster debuting in Orlando this June, marine conservationist and artist Guy Harvey will give them something to look at besides their cellphones.

On Tuesday, Harvey and Joel Manby, SeaWorld president and CEO, announced a partnership designed to educate park-goers about the vulnerability of shark species through exhibits and videos in the Mako ride queue. In addition, the coaster area will feature a Guy Harvey mural of a mako shark.

“We were so impressed with [Harvey’s] work that we wanted to partner with him,” said Manby in a phone interview. “Millions of people come through our parks each year. By exposing [them] to his great work, we’ll be able to help him do more of it.”

In addition, Guy Harvey paintings, coffee mugs and shirts will be available in the park. A portion of the proceeds from sales will go to work at the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Broward’s Nova Southeastern University.

SeaWorld also will sponsor tagging of five makos, allowing the institute to track the sharks as they migrate across tens of thousands of miles annually. Each tag costs $4,000 in addition to the staffing and vessels required to attach the tags.

“One of the real benefits of having a partnership with SeaWorld is sharing the cost of this project,” Harvey said.

Makos are heavily overfished due largely to the popularity of shark fin soup in Asian cuisine. “The mako is one of the few sharks that is good to eat,” Harvey said. “The population is at high risk and vulnerable to extinction. It’s fitting that SeaWorld should increase attention to this species.”

SeaWorld hopes eventually to expand the Guy Harvey partnership to its other parks in San Diego, California, and San Antonio, Texas.

In the wake of controversy over the dealth of an orca trainer at the Orlando park in 2010, SeaWorld has emphasized its mission “to create experiences that matter, not only entertainment, but to educate people about the plight of animals in the wild,” said Manby.

In recent years, Harvey has partnered with other hospitality brands, including Norwegian Cruise Line and Virgin, and has worked with hotel operators to create the Guy Harvey Outpost brand. “It’s fantastic to align with a company with the same goals,” Harvey said. “It takes cash to care.”