Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.


Popular Whale Tail License Plates Have Raised $95 Million For Environmental Initiatives Since 1997

The popular Whale Tail plates. (Photo via the California Coast Facebook page)
Before you
Dear reader, we're asking you to help us keep local news available for all. Your tax-deductible financial support keeps our stories free to read, instead of hidden behind paywalls. We believe when reliable local reporting is widely available, the entire community benefits. Thank you for investing in your neighborhood.

Have you ever seen a license plate featuring the tail of a whale cresting from the ocean? If so, you may have noticed that it says "Protect Our Coast & Ocean" right underneath. The support for the coast isn't superficial: these license plates have raised $95 million for coastal and ocean cleanup since they were introduced in 1997.

The California Coastal Commission introduced the plates as a way to fund events outside of the Coastal Cleanup Day; the funds go towards the Commission's Adopt-A-Beach program, which allows groups to commit to cleaning a beach three times a year, as well as the Whale Tail Grants Program, which provides funding for local marine education. After covering the cost of license plate production, the Commission funnels all remaining funds into coastal and state environmental programs.

The Commission has sold 243,000 plates since 1997. A regular Whale Tail plate costs $50 over the regular registration fee, with a $40 annual renewal fee. For a vanity plate, it costs $103 over the registration fee and $83 per year after that. The plates formerly featured an image by Long Beach muralist Wyland, but the Coastal Commission chose a new design after Wyland requested 20% of the state's profit in exchange for using his artwork.

The Pasadena Star-News points out the plates aren't only popular with coastal citizens, as would be expected— drivers from the San Gabriel Valley, San Bernardino, and Riverside are some of the biggest fans of the plates (as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend notes, albeit exaggeratedly, West Covina in the SGV is "two hours from the beach, four in traffic.")

Support for LAist comes from

Heal the Bay hosts the Commission's annual Cleanup Day as well as a monthly cleanup program called "Nothin' but Sand." The program will celebrate its 20th anniversary at the October "Nothin' but Sand" event at the Ballona Creek Wetlands in Playa Del Rey. The event will happen on October 21 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Playa del Rey’s Toe’s Beach, Tower 41.

Visit the California Coastal Commission's website if you're interested in getting a Whale Tail plate.