A Few Marine Standouts

Not much is more idyllic than the view coming into Catalina Island. The city of Avalon stretched out before you, complimented by an array of moored boats floating lazily in the harbor, how does it get any better? Dip below water level and you will find yourself in an entirely new but just as beautiful and tranquil environment. The waters around Catalina Island are home to over 150 species of marine animals and plants, we will be discussing 5 here.


Giant Kelp Macrocystis pyrifera

Much of what makes the waters around Catalina Island so special is thanks to this giant algae. The fastest growing plant in the world, Giant kelp can grow up to 14 inches per day and is held in place by a “holdfast” on the rocky ocean floor. This particular species makes up true kelp forests, providing ample habitat for all sorts of other plants and animals to make their home or find their dinner. It is no wonder so many different marine animals make their way to Catalina Island.


Garibaldi Hypsypops rubicundus

The state marine fish of California, this bright golden orange fish can be easily spotted both above and below the water line. When young, Garibaldi have a more reddish color, but the real give-a-way are their bright blue spots. As they age, the spots fade and the true orange of their coloration develops. Able to reach roughly 15 inches in length, the Garibaldi is most highly sought after for aquariums or other marine displays because they are not allowed to be kept if caught, protected as they are.


California Sheephead Pimelometopon pulchrum

True wonders of the ocean, all sheephead are actually born female. As they age, some of the fish transition into males. The males are most easily identified by their black head and tail, large red eyes and reddish-orange midsections. Those that do stay female are usually a bit smaller with a washed out pink color and a white underside. This is one of the more delicious fish found around the island and is sometimes used as a lobster substitute in recipes


Opaleye Girella nigricans

Opaleye is best identified by its large, blue-green, opalescent eyes. They are herbivores within the kelp forests, snacking on various algae, including our ever important giant kelp. Usually found in large schools of 2-4 lb fish near Pleasure Point Pier, these fish can grow up to almost 2 feet in length and can put up a good fight if hooked. If you do have the pleasure of bringing one in, they are a great fish to fry.


California Barracuda Sphyraena argentea

Yup! California has its own Barracuda. Like their other relatives, this fish does have a mouth that is full of very sharp fang-like teeth. Able to grow up to 4 feet in length, this terror starts out life usually in bays, making Catalina Island an ideal home. If you are able to keep one that you ketch, they are absolutely great to eat. Though make sure to keep them out of the sun and on ice so they don’t get mushy.


Though there are many other amazing and unique marine animals present in the waters off of Catalina Island, these are some of the standouts. The Catalina Island Conservancy works hard all along the island to keep a watchful eye on this important marine environment. If you want to see some for yourself, there are all sorts of different guided expeditions and viewing options, however for a real look at the wild visit the Casino Point Dive Park.