The fish are not all right.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium wants to remind San Francisco commuters of that, and it wants people know there are things they can do about it.
“This jelly has no brain and even it knows our ocean is in trouble,” reads a sign above a station escalator, with an image of a pink jellyfish gracefully floating nearby.
The aquarium is moving past simply trying to entice visitors, said Mimi Hahn, its chief marketing officer. The aim is to remind people that it’s a conservation organization as well. It researches ocean pollution and overfishing in addition to providing striking views of underwater creatures.
“We wanted to be direct, but still we are also very hopeful,” Hahn said. “We don’t ever want people to feel like there’s nothing that can be done.”
The ads appear in San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit stations, on the sides of cable cars and buses.
Humans have harmed oceans in many ways, according to Ben Halpern, director of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. He and a team of researchers have tracked and mapped the various effects humans have on the world’s oceans.
The list is long and includes climate change, overfishing, pollution, runoff, shoreline destruction, the introduction of invasive species and development.
“If we really want to solve ocean management and ocean conservation problems, we can’t do it piece by piece and issue by issue,” Halpern said. “We really need to be tackling all of these big challenges” at the same time.
Humans get a lot of benefit from the ocean, Halpern said, but it’s a delicate give and take. When problems like overfishing arise, he said, it throws the interaction out of balance.
“In a lot of places, we’re just loving it too much,” Halpern said. “We’re trying to do too much, take too much from the oceans.”
It was with these issues in mind that the aquarium and the San Francisco-based advertising agency Hub created the campaign.
Hub founder DJ O’Neil said he hopes the campaign inspires action. The agency has also created a life-size whale made of recycled plastic and helped start a food truck selling sustainably sourced fish outside the aquarium.
“I hope it stops them, makes them think, makes them smile,” O’Neil said of the ad campaign. “But also makes them want to do something.”