Oregonians love gray whales. Just look at our license plates.

One year ago, plates with an image of a mother whale with her calf went on sale at Oregon Department of Motor Vehicle offices. Since then, nearly 10,000 of the plates have been sold, according to a release from the Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute, the entity that receives money from the sales.

That translates to roughly $300,000 that has been raised for the Newport-based institute. The whale plates cost $40 and $35 of that goes to the research center.

The design of a license plate that benefits OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute.
The design of a license plate that benefits OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute.

The money will go toward efforts to conduct "health check-ups" of whales who spend summer months feeding in Oregon coast waters; it will allow researchers to continue to study whale behavior; and will strengthen "entanglement response teams" that aid whales caught in debris such as fishing gear.

"The data we collect through these check-ups will ultimately allow us to better protect this population and their habitat to ensure that future generations of Oregonians can enjoy seeing them in our coastal waters," marine ecologist Leigh Torres, an assistant professor with the Marine Mammal Institute, said in a statement. "I'm really grateful to everyone who has supported us in this effort."

The gray whale plates will remain on sale as long as 2,000 new plates are issued to Oregonians each year. The institute will also receive funds from existing whale plates that are renewed.