Watchful Protector: Catalina Island Conservancy

Students visiting Catalina Island Marine Institute for the first time make various exclamations, and one of the most popular is, “Why is the water so clear here compared to the mainland?” With 88% of Catalina Island protected, it is no wonder that the land and surrounding oceans are pristine. But, who do we have to thank for ensuring the continuation of an unmarred coastline? The Catalina Island Conservancy acts as the protectors and ecologically safe tour guides of this natural, wild island.

The Catalina Island Conservancy was founded in 1972, to protect and preserve the island and its native inhabitants. The Conservancy manages, through a unique balance of education and conservation, to retain the natural wonders of Catalina, while still opening the island to the public. The 62 miles of undeveloped coastline make up the longest stretch available for public visiting in Southern California. The Conservancy is also responsible for protecting animals, such as our adorable Catalina Island Foxes and regal Bison. There are over 60 endemic (meaning only found on the island) species of plants, animals and insects. That’s a lot to protect!

The Conservancy welcomes over one million visitors each year, over sixty thousand of which are students visiting camps. The education of visitors, adult and children alike, is an important component of tourism on Catalina Island. The Conservancy ensures that tourism does not affect the natural beauty of the island, nor harms any of its native inhabitants. Instead, through education and experience, tourists have a greater appreciation and understanding of the Conservancy’s mission to retain the natural wonder of the island. Tourists also have the opportunity to contribute to various causes and efforts to benefit the island’s wildlife. Their website,, provides a variety of ways to offer support. To generate awareness and support the Conservancy also hosts events and fundraisers.

Although most of the island is protected and tourism is allowed in an ecologically sustainable way, sometimes ecosystems or animals are negatively affected by natural or human influence. With a commitment to keeping the island as natural as possible, the Conservancy is very involved in restorative practices for areas and animals that has been impacted. All management decisions are made under the influence of research conducted on the island, and the Conservancy welcomes research projects that aid in those decisions.

So, next time you are on Catalina Island and remark on the beauty of the water, or abundance of wildlife, remember that the Catalina Island Conservancy is there to make sure it will look just as magnificent the next time you come!