Put a whale on it — Oregon gets a new license plate

The new license plate designed to benefit Oregon State's Marine Mammal Institute.

Oregon is about to issue a new license plate featuring a gray whale.

The Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute wanted to introduce the new plate to raise money for research. But before the state would give permission, the school had to sell 3,000 plates in advance.

Institute director Bruce Mate said Thursday the plate is now ready for wider purchase.

“The money that will come to us is $35 out of every $40 on a two-year cycle of plate renewal,” Mate said. “That money will be used for marine mammal research, for graduate student education and for public outreach programs.”

Wildlife artist Pieter Folkens illustrated the plates, which shows a whale mother and calf on a two-toned background. There’s also a lighthouse and across the bottom it says “coastal playground.”

Mate said the license plate cost the institute about $70,000 to bring to fruition. But he expects that within a couple of years, the plate sales and renewals will generate $100,000 a year or more.

Mate said that is a substantial cash flow for an institute with five faculty members.

“There has been a great deal of enthusiasm from Oregonians,” he said, “not only because of how striking (the new plates) are, but also because they will help fund whale conservation efforts.”

Mate pioneered some of the earliest research into tracking tagged whales via satellite.

Oregon’s Marine Institute is one of the first organizations to take advantage of a new state law allowing them to get a plate accepted by the Oregon DMV.

The new whale plates won’t be available until the first quarter of 2019 because the Oregon DMV is installing a computer system.


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