How the Funds Are Spent

The DMV distributes funds from the sale of ecoplates to the California Coastal Commission, the California Coastal Conservancy and to the California State Environmental License Plate Fund. In addition to funding several large scale efforts such as California Coastal Cleanup Day, which involves tens of thousands of volunteers in cleaning our coast and waterways each year, the California Coastal Commission uses funds from sales of the Whale Tail® License Plate to support a wide variety of innovative, local marine education projects. The Whale Tail® Grants Program has so far awarded 406 grants totaling $6,660,000. Below are a few examples of projects that received funding, thanks to sales of this plate.

View a map of all Whale Tail® Grant recipients, with project descriptions, since 1998.

Return of the Natives Restoration Education Project is the education and outreach branch of CSU Monterey Bay's Watershed Institute, restoring waterways and land that drain into Monterey Bay. Return of the Natives has led community habitat restoration at Fort Ord Dunes State Park, a former army base. Students from Salinas and Marina helped with the full restoration cycle of gathering native seeds, propagating plants, planting them in the dunes, and weeding and monitoring them afterwards. Students also learned about photosynthesis, plant respiration, and native plant adaptations. Their teachers attended special professional development workshops about dune restoration, and the general public was invited to large community restoration events.

Return of the Natives also added a creek cleanup component to its native plant restoration program at Natividad and Sanborn creeks in Salinas, where residents were leaving large quantities of debris and shopping carts in their local waterways flowing to Monterey Bay. Debris not only pollutes but also prevents the passage of migrating steelhead trout. Regular weekend cleanup and native plant restoration events along the creeks were held for members of the general public. Local educators were trained to teach their students about watersheds, marine science, and marine debris, and the students also visited the creeks to participate in cleanup and restoration events.

Golden Gate Audubon Society operates the Eco-Oakland Environmental Education Program in East Oakland. The organization received funding to develop and implement a marine ecology component for the program, and to translate the program materials into Spanish. During the fall, classroom presentations and fieldtrips to a local marsh cover watersheds, ecology, the importance of a healthy marsh, and the marsh's connection to the marine environment. In the spring and summer, after-school marine ecology programs are offered for students and their parents on topics such as tidepools and the importance of conservation.

Golden Gate Audubon also received funding to expand the program to the community of North Richmond. A Whale Tail grant from the Coastal Commission supported field trips to Point Pinole Regional Shoreline; after-school marine ecology programs for students and their parents; and weekend field trips to take the children and their families to coastal locations such as Muir Beach for interpretive hikes, tidepool research, beach cleanups, and lessons about marine wildlife and safe seafood consumption.

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center operates the Pinniped Pollution Project. This program has trained and motivated hundreds of elementary school children from underserved schools in inland Orange County communities to change their polluting behaviors and become stewards of the marine environment. Students visit the Center, a marine mammal rehabilitation facility, and observe sea lions recovering from pollution-related injuries, see the plastic stomach contents of a sea lion that once died of malnourishment, and work with an interactive watershed model to learn how trash travels from their playgrounds and streets into the ocean.

To help them consider alternatives, students are introduced to biodegradable products and participate in a shopping game that highlights the differences in trash production and packaging choices. They then summarize their lessons on a cloth bag that they take home with them. This becomes their new alternative to using throw-away bags as well as a teaching tool that they use to share what they have learned with others.

The Kids' Adopt-A-Beach School Assembly Program and Beach Clean-Up motivates children to care for the marine environment by showing a PowerPoint presentation and talking about the storm drain system, litter reduction, recycling, buying recycled products, and the dangers of plastic and debris in the oceans. Students are then given something to do about it by recycling and doing a beach cleanup. The program also provides each participating school with a bus for transportation to the beach. This program targets low-income and inland communities.

Founded by the Malibu Foundation for Environmental Education, this program now takes place in six locations, each with a local coordinator: Humboldt County, the San Francisco Bay Area, Monterey (involving students from Fresno), Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego. The program reaches dozens of elementary schools each year and annually brings 7,000 children to the beach on "Ocean Day" in May.

At the conclusion of the beach cleanup at each location, the kids stand in formation and spell out artistic messages about the importance of a healthy ocean environment, which are photographed from the air by helicopters at each site. In previous years, children have created aerial messages such as "SOS (Save Our Seas)," "Clean H2O," "Keep Oceans Alive," "Restore Balance," and "Kids Care."

Heal the Bay serves as the Los Angeles County coordinator of the Coastal Commission's statewide Adopt-A-Beach program. Volunteers pledge to clean "their" beach three times per year, and Heal the Bay provides them with a trained beach captain and cleanup supplies. Heal the Bay also arranges bus transportation to bring inland, underserved elementary, middle, and high school students to the beach for participation in cleanups; leads inland schoolyard and creek cleanups; and provides educational presentations to adopters about beach safety, watersheds, and urban runoff.

Heal the Bay has added special elements to their Adopt-A-Beach program, including holding monthly "Nothin' But Sand" public cleanup events; offering one-time cleanups for those who cannot commit to an adoption; maintaining an online database for volunteers to input tallies of the quantities and different types of trash they collect; and providing lesson plans on Heal the Bay's Adopt-A-Beach website.

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