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Graphic courtesy of the California Coastal Commission
Graphic courtesy of the California Coastal Commission

By Andrea Swayne

California license plates sporting a whale’s tail fluke do much more than add pizazz to the state’s automobiles. They also provide funding for cleaning beaches, restoring habitats, promoting beach access and educating students through marine and coastal protection projects.

This tax season, the whale tail program is giving citizens another way to support these efforts.

The California Coastal Commission’s Whale Tail Grants are funded through the sale of the license plates. This year, the commission’s Check the Coast program allows contributions to be made at tax time. Enter a donation next to the Protect Our Coast and Oceans Fund, in the “Voluntary Contributions” section on the last page of your California tax return.

Whale tail grants have been helping to support educational programs locally through organizations such as the Ocean Institute in Dana Point.

According to Shannon Waters, volunteer programs coordinator for the California Coastal Commission’s public education program, the grants have so far contributed $52,600 to programs at the Ocean Institute.

“Every dollar you contribute will have a lasting impact on our coast and will help us create the next generation of coastal stewards,” Waters said in a statement.

The Gray Whale Foundation is another Dana Point-based organization that has benefited from the grants.

The nonprofit foundation relies on this support to educate children from the Capistrano Unified School District and beyond through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum taught along with ocean excursions.

“This funding means a better environmental future by allowing us to introduce students to the ocean and teaching the lesson of how everything we do on land eventually ends up in the ocean,” said Michael Hansen, Gray Whale Foundation chairman. “The most important lesson we can teach young scholars is that their daily lives can impact the quality and health of the ocean and they have the power to change it.”

To find out more about the fund, log on to

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