Trojans clear the harbor during 40th annual Avalon Underwater Cleanup
Scuba divers scour Santa Catalina Island’s Avalon Harbor for trash during the 40th annual Avalon Underwater Cleanup event as volunteers standby onshore to sort the debris. (Photo: Jack Fishman/PADI AWARE Foundation.)

Trojans clear the harbor during 40th annual Avalon Underwater Cleanup

Volunteers from USC Dornsife’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies and Scientific Diving Program help pull tons of damaging garbage from Santa Catalina Island’s historic tourist location. [1¾ min read]
ByDarrin S. Joy

Santa Catalina Island’s Avalon Harbor, 22 miles off the Southern California coast, receives upwards of a million tourists each year, according to Avalon’s city website. Kayaking, paddleboarding, parasailing and sunbathing on the beach rank among the most popular activities.

What’s not allowed in the harbor? Scuba diving — with a single exception.

Each year, divers flock to the bay and spend one day removing debris from the harbor during the annual Avalon Underwater Cleanup.

This year marked the 40th cleanup event, with the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences’ Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, the USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber and the Catalina Conservation Divers co-hosting. Proceeds from the event, which took place Feb. 26, benefited the latter two hosting organizations along with USC Dornsife’s Scientific Diving Program.

Divers stand head into Avalon Harbor as boats float between them and the historic Casino Building in the background.

Avalon’s historic Casino Building provided a stunning backdrop for dozens of divers clearing the harbor of refuse as bystanders on boats and kayaks observed. (Photo: Ken Kurtis/Catalina Conservation Divers.)

Volunteers stand around and among debris and dirt on a blue tarp.

Nearly 100 volunteers catalogued more than 2,700 pieces of debris removed from Avalon Harbor by divers. Old tires, boat parts, glass bottles and children’s toys were among the retrieved items, which totaled nearly 1.7 tons, according to Avalon Environmental Services. (Photo: Jack Fishman/PADI AWARE Foundation.)

Smiling and bearded Nick Foster wearing a desert camo brimmed hat holds a golf ball with seaweed attached between his thumb and middle finger.

Volunteer Nick Foster, who graduated from USC Dornsife with a degree in environmental studies in 2021, displays a golf ball harboring a piece of seaweed. Divers freed nearly 130 creatures that were entangled with debris, including 18 crabs, 15 sea urchins, 10 brittle stars and 3 octopuses, according to event officials from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors’ PADI Aware Foundation. (Photo: Nick Neumann/USC Dornsife Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies.)

Volunteer divers in scuba suits kneel and stand while holding diving equipment and displaying the "Fight On!" sign with their hands

Participants in USC Dornsife’s Scientific Diving Program were among 561 divers who helped clear nearly 1,600 pounds of recyclable metals and 1,800 pounds of mixed trash from Avalon Harbor. Pictured from left are (kneeling) volunteer dive instructor and USC staff member Jeremy Whaley; Dave Ginsburg, professor (teaching) of environmental studies at USC Dornsife; and environmental studies students Cora Sverdrup, Emerson Damiano, Bruce Chan, and (standing) Sean Taylor, Yannick Peterhans, Ian Livingston, Ben Melechin, Colette Speer and Harold Carlson. (Photo: Nick Neumann/USC Dornsife Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies.)

Volunteers wearing face masks wave while standing aboard the white and red boat, Miss Christi

After a busy day of environmental service, USC volunteers head home aboard Miss Christi, the Wrigley Institute’s transportation of choice. (Photo: Nick Neumann/USC Dornsife Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies.)