Trojans Clean Harbor During Avalon’s 40th Annual Underwater Cleanup > News > USC Dornsife

Volunteers from USC Dornsife’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies and Scientific Diving Program help remove tons of damaging trash from the historic Santa Catalina Island tourist site. [1¾ min read]

Divers scour Santa Catalina Island’s Avalon Harbor for trash during the 40th annual Avalon Underwater Cleanup event, while volunteers stand ashore to sort through the debris. (Photo: Jack Fishman/PADI AWARE Foundation.)

The Port of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, 22 miles off the southern California coast, receives more than one million tourists each year, according to the City of Avalon website. Kayaking, paddleboarding, parasailing and sunbathing on the beach remain among the most popular activities.

What is not allowed in the port? Scuba diving — with one exception.

Every year, divers flock to the bay and spend a day clearing debris from the harbor during Avalon’s annual underwater cleanup.

This year marked the 40th cleanup event, with USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences’ Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, the USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber and the Catalina Conservation Miscellaneous co-hosting. Proceeds from the event, which took place on February 26, benefited these last two hosting organizations as well as USC Dornsife. Scientific diving program.


Divers 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 to dozens of divers clearing the harbor of trash as passers-by watched boats and kayaks. (Photo: Ken Kurtis/Catalina Conservation Divers.)


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

Nearly 100 volunteers cataloged 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 items recovered, which totaled nearly 1.7 tons, according to Avalon Environmental Services. (Photo: Ken Kurtis/Catalina Conservation Divers.)


Smiling and bearded, Nick Foster wearing a desert camo brim 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, shows a golf ball housing a piece of seaweed. Divers freed nearly 130 creatures entangled in debris, including 18 crabs, 15 sea urchins, 10 brittlestars and 3 octopuses, according to event officials from the PADI Aware Foundation of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. (Photo: Nick Neumann/USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies.)


Volunteer divers in wetsuits kneel and stand while holding scuba gear and displaying the

Participants in USC Dornsife’s scientific diving program were among 561 divers who helped remove nearly 1,600 pounds of recyclable metals and 1,800 pounds of mixed waste from the Port of Avalon. Pictured left are Jeremy Whaley, volunteer dive instructor (kneeling) and USC staff member; Dave Ginsburg, professor (teacher) 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.


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

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


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