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Calif. 'Whale Tail' license plate gets new look

August 2, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Nearly 200,000 California drivers have the "Whale Tail" license plate hanging from the back of their cars.

"It's one of the most popular specialty license plates of all times and we've raised over $60 million to support coastal education and environmental programs around the state," said Eben Schwartz of the California Coastal Commission.

But the eco-friendly marker hasn't come without controversy.

Laguna Beach artist Wyland created the original design in 1997. He recently asked the California Coastal Commission for 20 percent of the profits from the plate to fund his nonprofit Ocean Conservation Foundation.

The commission decided instead to drop Wyland's design and hold a contest to find a new one.

"It's been very successful but we found the best thing to do at this point was to redesign it and launch a brand new plate," Schwartz said.

Out of 400 contest entries, one design was chosen to replace the existing one. It depicts a whale's tail also.

Bill Atkins was one of the two artists chosen to design the new plate.

"Believe me I went way in the other direction," Atkins said. "I was doing sunset skies with pink and orange."

A spokesperson for Wyland did not comment Tuesday on the design of new license plate but did release a statement.

"Wyland is grateful that the artwork that he loaned to the whale tail plate program for almost twenty years has been able to provide assistance to so many worthwhile environmental organizations throughout California," the statement said.

At $50 extra apiece, sales of the new plate will continue to raise money for environmental programs.

New owners will also have a chance to get more than just new artwork for their car. They'll be entered into a drawing where winners would get a luxury vacation that includes a whale watching excursion.

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