Specialty license plate to fund whale research

FORT PIERCE, FL., - Florida residents have overwhelmingly said they support the idea of a new specialty license plate that will fund research on the whales that live in Florida waters.

The new "Protect Florida Whales" license plate, proposed by HARBOR BRANCH Oceanographic Institution, will be unveiled at a special ceremony in Destin, Florida, on Wednesday, Oct. 17th. The unveiling will take place at noon at Legendary Marina, 690 Regatta Bay Blvd., where world-renowned marine life artist and environmentalist Wyland is painting his 88th "Whaling Wall" mural.

Wyland, who donated his talents to do the artwork for the new plate, will unveil it along with HARBOR BRANCH Dolphin Research Program Director Stephen McCulloch, as the "Whaling Wall" mural is completed.

McCulloch said it took only three weeks to get the public support needed in order to ask Florida state lawmakers to create the new specialty plate.

He said a total of 40,000 people were contacted during a special survey, and almost half of the respondents said they would purchase the new plate if it became available.

"There is a real need for this plate. There is no state or federal funding for whale research or for resources to respond to whale strandings along Florida's east coast," McCulloch said.

"A majority of strandings take place on our coast, and there's no place to take them or to conduct research. Predicated on the success of our "Protect Wild Dolphin" license plate, we feel HARBOR BRANCH is poised and in a perfect position to take the lead and become the predominant cetacean research center in Florida," McCulloch added.

Each "Protect Florida Whales" plate will cost $25 in addition to the normal registration fee, and the majority of the money will go directly for whale-related research and conservation. The cost of the new plate - over and above normal registration fees - will be tax-deductible.

A minimum of 10-percent of funds rais

Contact: Stephen McCulloch
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution

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