In 2001, The Marine Mammal Center continued its three-year public education media campaign designed to educate Bay Area and Northern California residents on the role of marine mammals as "sentinels" of ocean health, and on the importance of monitoring the health of marine mammals and protecting them. "Sentinel" means to guard a group against surprise.
The "Seals Can Talk. Are You Listening?" campaign asks viewers this arresting question and urges all people to pay attention to the critical messages our marine mammals are sending us about the health of the earth's major life support system. Produced pro bono by the San Francisco advertising agency, Grant, Scott & Hurley, the ads combine beautiful imagery of The Center's patients as well as marine mammals in the wild with case studies that convey their sentinel messages, as documented by the work of The Marine Mammal Center.
The case studies featured in the campaign illustrate how ocean health affects marine mammal health. The case studies include:
- an event in which California sea lions were poisoned by domoic acid, a harmful algal bloom biotoxin, that has caused deaths of people on the east coast of Canada, warning us of the presence of this harmful toxin in seafood;
- the continued presence in our oceans of banned and harmful chemicals, such as DDT and PCBs, that we are finding in California sea lions with cancer
- the decline in the southern sea otter population related in part to an infectious disease that could be caused by ingesting contaminants from agricultural and urban run-off.
- a message about "Cass," a northern fur seal pup, who was one of the usually high number of his species that stranded malnourished due to a warming ocean current along the central and northern California coastline. These fur seals forewarned us about El Niño's dramatic climatic effects, that would go on to cause powerful storms, mudslides, flooding, and financial loss to California and worldwide.
The 2001 public education campaign, featuring a :30 TV spot, a print ad and bus and other outdoor posters, ran in May and June and again in October and November. The cable TV schedule includes A&E, Bravo, CNN, Discovery, Animal Planet and MSNBC. Print ads ran in Sunset and in the San Francisco Chronicle. The bus poster was seen on the sides of Golden Gate Transit buses and there were outdoor postings in San Francisco.
This three-year campaign was made possible in part through a generous grant from the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund.
The Marine Mammal Center, a non-profit rehabilitation hospital, rescues hundreds of injured, sick and orphaned marine mammals every year along 600 miles of northern and central California coastline. The Center uniquely combines its rehabilitation program with scientific discovery and education programs to advance our understanding of marine mammals and their conservation.