Slivers of sunshine peek through towering kelp forests around Catalina Island, which is home to diverse and abundant kelp forest communities and is one of our premiere locations for our Ambassadors of the Environment Program
Catalina Island, or Santa Catalina Island, is one of eight rocky islands along the coast of California known as the Channel Islands. These islands all lie within the Southern California Bight, a rich marine ecosystem supporting fishes, invertebrates, birds, and over 30 species of marine mammals including seals, sea lions, whales and dolphins.
Having never been connected to mainland California, the Channel Islands are home to many types of terrestrial species that are endemic to the islands and found nowhere else in the world. Each of their unique underwater ecosystems supports productive fisheries, including the California market squid. Catalina’s remarkable landscape and cultural environment is the perfect place to teach outdoor education and connect students and adults alike with powerful lessons about sustainably from nature.
Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment Program hosts its Catalina Environmental Leadership Program (CELP) on this beautiful temperate paradise. Beginning in 1999, the program offers 3 to 5-day programs that immerse students in kelp bed ecosystems and demonstrate connections between natural systems and sustainable human societies. Catalina is also a location Jean-Michel and his team explored during their filming for Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Secret Ocean 3D.
Due to the isolation of the Channel Islands, major threats include invasive species that are brought to the islands from outside sources. Restoration efforts to return native vegetation and remove harmful invasive species have been underway, but need continued monitoring to ensure success.
State of Catalina Island
- An invasive species of algae, Sargassum horneri, has taken over many of the original kelp forests and scientists are studying how to control its spread.
- Island Fox populations, which were once endangered, have now greatly increased their numbers although they continue to face threats including water shortages and limited food.
- Invasive species pose hazards to terrestrial species and restoration efforts now work to return Catalina to its original flora and fauna.
The Catalina Expedition Teams
Videos from Catalina Island
Learn more about our work in Catalina Island
- The Catalina Environmental Leadership Program (CELP) is an educational program distilling lessons from nature and empowering students to live more sustainably with their environment.
- Each year, Jean-Michel Cousteau joins families and children for a weeklong experience at Family Camp, Catalina Island, California.
- Watch the trailer for Jean-Michel Cousteau’s IMAX film Secret Ocean 3D and find out what IMAX Theaters it’s showing around the world.
- Originally bought by a company to create a resort, Catalina is now a wildlife refuge and natural wonderland.
- A small resident human population resides in Catalina year-round.
- The Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina is run by USC and support year-round scientific research.
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