Catalina Island

Expeditions:Catalina Island

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

garibaldi kelp  Cat72 copys_0.jpg

© Richard Murphy, Ph.D, Ocean Futures Society

Quick Facts

  • 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.

Support Ocean Futures Society!

We rely on your support to help us be a Voice for the Ocean. By becoming a member, donating, or taking part in our Action Alerts, you help us spread our message, “Protect the Ocean, and you protect yourself, and future generations to come.”