Every year, the Coastal Commission issues millions of dollars in grants to non-profit organizations, public agencies, and federally recognized tribes for projects that restore and protect the California coast, increase public access, and educate about climate change.
SAN FRANCISCO—On Feb. 15, The Coastal Commission announced the approval of 91 Whale Tail Grant applications totaling more than $3 million (with a maximum award of $50,000), the single most significant annual grant cycle in the Commission’s history.
“Funding for Whale Tail Grants come from the sale of California Whale Tail License Plates and donations to the Protect Our Coast and Oceans fund in the voluntary contributions section of the California tax form,” said Annie Kohut Frankel, Grants and Education Programs Coordinator for the California Coastal Commission. “In the 2021 State Budget, an additional $10 million was allocated to the grants to be spent over the next several years, which enabled this grant round to support a historic number of projects.”
Drivers who purchase Whale Tail License Plates and California taxpayers who “Check the Coast” during tax time contribute to the Protect Our Coast and Ocean Fund support and provide money to the Whale Tail Grants. Over the past 20 years, the Commission has awarded an average of $350,000 annually across 20 grants, primarily for projects that provide opportunities for inland, rural, and historically excluded communities to experience and learn about the coast and ocean and develop leadership, stewardship, and science-based skills.
“The Coastal Commission has run this grant program for more than 20 years, enabling coastal and marine education and stewardship experiences for Californians who have historically been excluded or who otherwise wouldn’t have those opportunities,” said Frankel. “One outcome is that over those years, Whale Tail Grants have funded field trips for well over 200,000 students. In our newest round of grantees, we’re funding sailing lessons, surf programs, beach cleanups, fishing line recycling stations, scientific internships, summer camps, school trips, and lots more.”
In 2021, due to a historic surplus in the state budget, the legislature approved an additional $10 million for the Whale Tail Grant Program to be expended over five years. After several months of public outreach and guidance on applying for the grants, commission staff received 168 applications. Many were first-time applicants, with innovative proposals engaging communities excluded from coastal education opportunities. The additional funding enabled the Commission to distribute $3,192,380. Some first-time applications included funding for environmental education and coastal field trips for coastal tribes, adults with developmental disabilities, students from rural Siskiyou County, and foster youth from Antelope Valley.
“It’s so affirming to see the large number of high-quality proposals we got this year as a result of our outreach,” said Chris Parry, the Commission’s Public Education Manager, in the press release. “And we are thrilled to be able to support so many fantastic and varied programs that engage such a wide range of communities and audiences around the state.”
On Feb. 9, the Commission unanimously approved a total of 91 competitive grants totaling $3,192,380 to organizations. An example of the grants awarded are:
- $41,575 for Ocean Connectors/The Ocean Foundation Project Title: Ocean Connectors Engaging Communities in National City Grant Category: Youth programs Project Timeline: June 2022 – August 2023 Every Title 1 elementary and middle school in National City School District will receive in-class marine education lessons and accompanying hands-on learning using habitat restoration and coastal field trips, which may include Paradise Creek, Living Coast Discovery Center, San Diego Bay Wildlife Refuge, or a whale-watching boat trip depending on grade level.
- $20,000 for Un Mar De Colores/Changing Tides Foundation Project Title: Surf Therapy Fiestas and Eco Field Trips Engaging Communities in: San Diego County Grant Category: Youth programs Project Timeline: May 2022 – April 2024 Youth from BIPOC communities will learn surfing, environmental stewardship, and build a platform for success through three-, six-, and nine-month programs of monthly surf days, eco field trips, family learning days, and one-on-one mentorship.
- $28,808 for Outdoor Outreach Project Title: Youth Environmental Stewardship Project Engaging Communities in: Southern San Diego County Grant Category: Youth programs Project Timeline: April 2022 – March 2023 Engage youth in 12 field-based outdoor conservation programs with impacts both for wetland and coastal habitat restoration in the border region, sustain 40 internship positions for program graduates employed as outdoor educators, and support staff training on environmental stewardship.
The next round of Whale Tail Grants will open in September.
Projects must relate to the coast and ocean. They may fall into one or more of the following categories:
- Youth education programs
- Programs for educating the general public
- Climate change education and stewardship
- Shoreline cleanup and enhancement programs
The California Coastal Commission strongly encourages projects that engage communities that have received fewer opportunities for coastal and marine education and stewardship and applicant organizations based in and composed of the communities they are engaging.
Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations, projects of a non-profit fiscal sponsor, schools or districts, government entities, Federally Recognized Tribes, and other California Native American Tribes as defined by Governor’s Executive Order B-10-11.
Projects funded by Whale Tail grants must serve audiences in California and can take place anywhere in California.
For more information, contact Noaki Schwartz at Noaki.Schwartz@coastal.ca.gov, or Annie Kohut Frankel, Grants and Education Programs Coordinator at
The complete staff report can be found here.