George Jacob FRCGS is the President & CEO of Bay Ecotarium- the largest non-profit watershed conservation group in San Francisco Bay Area with seven branches, including Aquarium of the Bay, Sea Lion Center, Bay Academy, Studio Aqua, Bay Model, Eco-Xpeditions and the Bay Institute, celebrating its 40th year in environmental advocacy.
A year ago, thirty hand-painted sea lion statues made their debut along the San Francisco waterfront as part of the Aquarium of the Bay’s Sea Lions In San Francisco Program, marking their 30 years on PIER 39.
Sea Lions in San Francisco is the largest public STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) program in California launched by the Smithsonian Affiliated Aquarium of the Bay and the Sea Lion Center on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. It is an initiative that promotes the convergence of science and art in environmental education. Every life-sized statue has a QR code that reads the artist’s statement and the environmental message that calls for protecting and conserving the marine bio-diversity in the San Francisco Bay. Mayor London Breed launched the event on January 16, 2020, proclaiming it the Sea Lion Day in San Francisco!
Each sea lion statue commemorates each year of their presence on the pier, marking the path of discovery, creativity, and connection to the oceans. Each sculpture tells a unique story. One sea lion, covered in swirling anchovies and octopus tentacles, represents the animal’s favorite snacks. Doodled with San Francisco landmarks, another depicts a tour of the city landmarks. Another sea lion, adorned with California poppies and Franciscan wallflowers, honors the wildlife native to the Bay Area, sending a broader message about the importance of local conservation and sustainability. Mottled in a blue terrazzo pattern, a closer look at artist Lisa Long’s statue reveals surfers swimming in a sea of plastic. Yi Len Pei’s design recalls a surprising encounter she had with a little boy on Monterey Beach, who picked up garbage that had washed ashore as he played in the sand. “Such an innocent moment is exactly what I am trying to capture in this work — that conservation and fun can co-exist,” wrote Pei.
Illustrated by Bay Area artists and selected from hundreds of entries received by a jury drawn from San Francisco Environment, Pier #39, Aquarium of the Bay and the Golden Gates Parks Conservancy, each six-foot-tall fiberglass statue serves as a life-sized reminder of the sea lion takeover of the K-Docks that occurred just after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. They also educate visitors of the hazards and pollutants threatening the habitat of the now-endangered marine mammals, which include ocean acidification, seafaring vessels, mercury, fishing nets, micro-plastics, noise, diesel fuel and PCB pollution, among others.
Over 3000 school children from across the United States took part in painting and mailing mini sea lions to the Aquarium.
“The Port is proud to host the sea lion installation all along the waterfront,” said Elaine Forbes, the Executive Director of the Port of San Francisco. “We love seeing the majestic marine mammals in the water and always look forward to seeing the artistic (sculptural) renderings dot the waterfront.”
Photographed by hundreds of thousands since their launch, Aquarium of the Bay’s Sea Lions in San Francisco will remain along the San Francisco Waterfront and at Aquarium of the Bay for a very limited amount of time but there is a new way to see the statues via a GoCar San Francisco Tour available www.aquariumofthebay.org .
From water-bottles, plush-toys, T-shirts, Yoga-wear, hoodies, ball-caps to jackets and designer Sea Lion Face Masks, and a wonderful book on Sea Lions in San Francisco – they have been quite the hit on the Aquarium Eco-Store!