Sharks could soon become a common sight on Rhode Island roads.
On Interstate 95, across Plainfield Pike, through Blackstone Boulevard, cars and trucks bearing shark license plates could roll in a few months. The charity plates, bearing an image of the endangered shortfin mako shark, would help raise money for the Atlantic Shark Institute in Wakefield.
"It’s absolutely beautiful and will be the coolest license plate in the US," the institute's executive director, Jon Dodd, wrote in a Facebook post.
The plate has been approved by the state legislature, but also needs an OK from the Rhode Island State Police, and the institute will have to collect hundreds of pre-orders before the plate can go into production, according to Dodd.
Now the institute is asking Facebook users to vote for their favorite of two designs. Both show a mako shark, but one is a closeup, the other a longer view that shows the entire shark and two mackerel swimming beneath it. The plate showing the entire shark is "demolishing" the closeup, with 85% to 90% of the votes, Dodd said.
"It's fun," he said. "It's a way of getting the public involved in something that's near and dear to our hearts."
The Atlantic Shark Institute's mission is to "do the highest quality shark research to help conserve and manage these magnificent animals." Dodd says the apex predators "keep everything else in check" and are important to a balanced ecosystem, which can suffer when shark populations decline.
"Shark health is ocean health," Dodd said.
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Charity plates in Rhode Island cost $42.50, and the institute would receive $20 from each plate sold. Dodd hopes to make $15,000 on the initial set of orders then build from there as more plates are sold and renewed. He believes the plates, designed by marine artist Paul McPhee, will help market themselves once they're on the road and "getting people's attention."
Dodd says he will announce the winning plate design next week. After that, the Rhode Island State Police will test the plate to make sure it's visible on the road at night, and they could require tweaks in the color shades. The institute wants 600 orders for passenger plates and 600 for combination plates before the plates go into production. The institute will set up its website for taking orders.
"Once approved it will take a while to get them made as we need hundreds of pre-orders before they’ll start production," Dodd said on Facebook. "But with this design, we’re not worried!
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This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: RI charity license plate features a shark for Atlantic Shark Institute